Jo Harman – Dirt On My Tongue


Review by David Waterfield

Big Chill

In an age when so much new music has a form of soul but denies its power, Jo Harman is the real deal. All but one of the tracks on her debut studio album Dirt On My Tongue were written or co-written by the singer which gives the album a stamp of authenticity and allows Jo Harman to tell her own story. Dirt On My Tongue is a sincere and personal album and one that packs a hefty emotional punch.

Opening track ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’ immediately establishes the mood and ageless feel of the album. The sound of pouring rain fades away under a lone piano, slide guitar and faint keyboards before Jo Harman’s vocals – husky and soulful,  hurt but defiant – come in. The song has a strong gospel feel to it, as do several songs on the album, with Harman layering backing vocals on top of each other like a choir. ‘Worthy Of Love’ and ‘Cold Heart’ have a bluesy, after hours feel , ‘Heartstring’ displays a pop sensibility that marries Harman’s soulful vocals to a strong, commercial hook line whilst the acoustic ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’ brings a different colour to the album with the vulnerability in the verses yielding to sweet harmonies of a sunnier, more optimistic chorus. ‘Sweet Man Moses’ – a eulogy to Jo’s late father – appears halfway through and is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the album. It is heavily gospel influenced (with traces of New Orleans jazz filtering through) but at its core is an outstanding vocal from Harman – deep, sensitive, soulful, powerful and loaded with feeling.

The production by guitarist Mike Davies (who also co-wrote six of the songs) is excellent throughout. He handles the material with sensitivity and understanding, allowing a collection of well-written songs to breathe, never cluttering up the sound unnecessarily and showcasing Jo Harman’s extraordinary voice to great effect. And then there is ‘(This Is My) Amnesty’ which is just a fabulous song by any measurement. It connects with the heart and emotions, not just lyrically and intellectually but emotionally and instinctively too. Soul music in the most literal sense of the word.

Drawing from the deep well of blues, soul, roots and gospel may invite comparison with legendary singers both past and present, but Jo Harman is an original talent of considerable promise and Dirt On My Tongue is a timeless album that will remain relevant far beyond passing musical trends.

Jo Harman – Dirt On My Tongue8.5 out of 10

Jo returns to play the Robin2 in Bilston in July (click here for details). I would urge you to get down there and discover for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Track listing:

  1. I Shall Not Be Moved
  2. Worthy Of Love
  3. (This Is My) Amnesty
  4. Heartstring
  5. I Don’t Live Here Anymore
  6. Sweet Man Moses
  7. Underneath The River
  8. Fragile
  9. Cold Heart
  10. Better Woman
  11. What You Did For Me