Jess Penner's "Imagination" Timeless Classics with New Age Flair

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While this may be Jess Penner’s first EP of family music, Jess is no newbie to the music scene. Working with Position Music since 2008, this Kauai native has earned hundreds of song placements around the world in advertisements and movie trailers. She met her husband Kevin as a teenager while performing in a nationally touring Christian Rock band, and he performs on (as well as engineered and mixed) the album with her.

I popped this CD in my car’ss player and after the first couple of seconds I said, “No way.” This is recorded too well to give a first listen to in a moving vehicle. This deserved serious listening in my dedicated home system. Once I returned home, powered up my stereo and gave it sufficient time to warm up, I re-popped the CD into my player, sat down in the “sweet spot,” and proceeded to give it some serious “ear time.”

Wow! This is not just good music, its beautiful music! While mixed slightly to the brighter side of neutral, the sound is never harsh, and it’s mic’d and mixed very well. It is very evident that Kevin has spent his fair share of time in front of a mixing board as well as performing.

The EP is short at just around 20 minutes total for the 8 songs, but boy does she pack a lot into a short amount of time. From the very first song, “I’ve Got No Strings” Jess’s voice and the way the song is constructed captivated me. The sound of the album from start to finish I would liken to Enya in that it sounds New Age while still holding on to traditional nuances--and I mean that with the highest praise, as I consider Enya one of the finest performers in the world.

While the music comes across on the same plane, the sound stage is nice and wide, with vocals and instruments coming from various places in between so that your ears keep moving about the sound stage when a new vocal or instrument is heard, all done with an alluring crystalline and haunting clarity.

Jess’s voice has a wonderful humanness to it that puts her in the same room with you on solos. Her original songs, “Forever My Heart” and the title “Imagination,” are well-crafted and tell nice stories that the whole family can understand. But for me, it’s when she gets to the classics on this album where I really fall in love with not just her voice, but her sound. “You are my Sunshine” is beautifully soul stirring—there no other way to describe it—with this wall of music coming from my speakers that leads into her version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” that is second only to the late Eva Cassidy’s ethereal rendition in my book. Jess also does a fine job breathing refreshing life into Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend.”

While a lot of people could no doubt listen to this entire album in the commute to or from work, it doesn’t have to be. This album is the type you can listen to during the drive, then take it out, bring it in, and put it on your stereo just as I did. Unwind and relax and let Jess take you away from all the stress and strife the world threw at you that day, or put it in simply because it is a beautiful record. IMAGINATION is sure to please both casual and serious listeners alike, and will have you singing some songs to yourself you haven’t thought about in ages, bringing them to a whole new generation who just might consider these the definitive versions they hear.

Easily recommended

Songs on this album:

  1. I’ve Got No Strings

  2. I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon

  3. Imagination

  4. Mr. Sun

  5. You Are My Sunshine

  6. Somewhere Over The Rainbow

  7. Thank You For Being A Friend

  8. Forever In My Heart

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0