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Jomama Jones | Flowering

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Urban/R&B: Neo-Soul Electronic: Disco Moods: Featuring Guitar
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by Jomama Jones

A new double-album of original songs from Jomama Jones, composed with and produced by Bobby Halvorson, spanning a wide sonic landscape from soul to dance to ballad.
Genre: Urban/R&B: Neo-Soul
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Flower Song
4:29 $0.99
2. Vanilla Child
5:05 $0.99
3. Silver Room
3:31 $0.99
4. Tonight
3:27 $0.99
5. Now
3:59 $0.99
6. Night Flower
6:28 $0.99
7. Shattered
2:44 $0.99
8. Fortress of Solitude
4:37 $0.99
9. Gabriel's Horn
3:38 $0.99
10. Griffith Park
5:10 $0.99
11. Haven
4:17 $0.99
12. Fated
4:14 $0.99
13. London
3:46 $0.99
14. Seeds
4:56 $0.99
15. Joy
3:58 $0.99
16. Future Light
4:35 $0.99
17. Daybreak
3:15 $0.99
18. Riverside
2:42 $0.99
19. Regenerating
3:12 $0.99
20. Stardust
3:47 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Flowering Liner Notes by Christian John Wikane

To press play on Flowering is to enter a garden where melodies are sown and lyrics grow in abundance. Jomama Jones tills the soil with stardust. Her wisdom stems from seeds of life experience while rays of light herald what she calls "the transformation within."

Indeed, transformation is one of the principles that's long guided Jomama's career. "I'm not interested in repeating myself or going over well-worn territory," she declares. Lone Star (2010) and Radiate (2011) both traced Jomama's reemergence after returning to the U.S. Following the release of her Six Ways Home (2012) EP, she knew that her next full-length project would continue her quest to examine new themes and different realms of sound. "I had a conversation with a friend of mine who's very intuitive," Jomama recalls. "She said to me, 'I think the next chapter for you is going to be about things that hover close to the earth, flowers and butterflies, and the beauty that lies right around us that you don't pay attention to.' So much of Radiate was about how you stand in the world outside of you. I'm interested in inner shifts and quiet beauty, the power of starting a revolution within yourself."

On Flowering, that revolution spans 20 original songs that Jomama wrote with her longtime collaborator and producer Bobby Halvorson. "There was a suite a songs, about eight of them, that came all at once," she says. The first song on Flowering was also the first to materialize. "Flower Song was in direct response to the loss of Brandon Lacy Campos," say Jomama. "It was about the ephemerality of our existence, of course, and how in the short time that I knew him, he offered so much of his heart and his beauty to me and to the world. When he passed away, that song came to me whole. I woke up with the melody and the sensibility of it. I contacted Bobby and I said, 'We have to get into the studio immediately to put this down.' Flower Song became a sort of anchor." Jomama's dedication to one of the LGBT community's most beloved writers and activists is the gateway to an expansive artistic statement that draws from Jomama's myriad influences and showcases her strength as a vocalist, lyricist, and composer.

When Jomama graced JET in the 1980s, another musical force made the magazine's Top 20 singles chart, Teena Marie. The celestial funk of Vanilla Child is a loving tribute to Lady T's influence across generations of fellow artists and music lovers alike. "As a white woman in soul music, she was that rare person who was there to participate and not appropriate," Jomama notes. "She was a participant in the culture. People loved and regarded her as part of it. She never sacrificed her absolute adoration for the music. There was a devotional aspect to her singing, to her compositions. She saw both the spiritual and the embodied as equally important. Of course, her dance music was celebratory and inclusive. I feel like she was a model of somebody who said, 'Everybody can be at this party.'"

Jomama hosts a party of her own on Silver Room, a song that echoes the carefree spirit of a time when the effervescent grooves of producers like George Duke, Narada Michael Walden, and the CHIC Organization were synonymous with joy and celebration. "A house party was a very particular thing and I wanted to capture the innocence of that, the sexiness of that, and the fun of that," says Jomama. "There's a delight that we can take in one another in celebration. In the '80s, there was a lot of music that allowed for that. There was a simplicity about it and that's what I love about Silver Room. There's nothing hidden in there." Tonight continues the party on more intimate terms. "Silver Room feels like a little bit of a homage to a younger self whereas I would sing Tonight to someone now," Jomama quips with a coy chuckle.

Now amplifies the scene of souls uniting on Tonight. "It is through our sexuality and our sensuality, being free, that we can access some aspect of our power as human beings," Jomama says. "What would it be if we allowed ourselves to abide and bask in one another, sensually, without fear, so that we could be as fully present as we can? I know that that means going against some of the mores of our society but, as I've gotten older, I think it's more and more important to say we're only here for a moment. We have the capacity to love one another in many ways, spiritually, socially, but also sensually, depending on who the people are." The erotic quality of Now exemplifies yet another way Jomama is pushing boundaries in her own music.

A bewitching chord progression introduces Night Flower, a song that reflects both literal and metaphorical notions of flowering. "I'm very proud of that song," says Jomama. "We have hidden reserves and hidden self-knowledge that are available to us, that appear when they're not in clear view. I will go out on a limb here and say the thing that we're seeking as a country, a kind of renewal of the soul, might not be that far away. Maybe it just needs to bloom under the stars and not under the sun." Sung a cappella, Shattered also highlights the brilliance of Jomama's insights and her power to command attention with just the sound of her voice. "It's a state-of-the-world song," she says. "I think of the responsibility and the need to comment on the moment we're in with brutal honesty."

Fortress of Solitude is steeped in a somewhat unsettling musical atmosphere where Jomama explores the effects of isolation. "It can be very easy to retreat from our vulnerability and to protect ourselves from contact with anything that might disrupt our control over our inner emotional life," she says. "When one does that, I fear that you end up with a distorted landscape. It is not a clean and clear image of reality. The voices in our head can take on a significance that is much greater than they actually have, which can then make us much more cautious about willing to risk our contact with other people. At some point, in the song at least and I think in my own life whenever I've been in that space, there's an entreaty from the universe to say to you: You have to leave behind this fortress of solitude that you've built for yourself."

Jomama's conversation with listeners continues on Gabriel's Horn where she implores us to take action. "Gabriel's Horn is very much of this moment," she says. "I felt the need to throw down a bit of a gauntlet and say, 'These are the things that we're doing and are they, in fact, in line with what other people, quite literally, died for?' I would say, 'No, they're not.' This idea that you need to do better, we need to do better, is true. It is not pointing fingers at any one group." The track's raging energy illustrates Jomama's versatility with different musical forms, anchored by the same rock and roll edge as "Uninvited Guest" and "Out of Time" on Lone Star and Radiate, respectively.

Though still based in the Swiss countryside, Jomama divides much of her time between New York and Los Angeles. Griffith Park ushers listeners through one of LA's most majestic landscapes. "Griffith Park is one of the most beautiful places I know in the country," she says. "If you go on a night hike and you climb all the way up, and you're able to sit and look back and look down on Los Angeles stretched before you, you can hear the sounds of owls and the sounds of rustling creatures in the woods. You see the city and it gives you a perspective on this moment where we are in a tensional relationship between the urban, the developed, the technological and the ancient, this beautiful natural world. There's something about the progression and the movement of the song that I hope takes the listener on a physical journey as well as an emotional journey, that you have a sense of moving."

In fact, the natural world inspired a few moments on Flowering, specifically Haven. "I actually wrote it at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena in California," she says. "I was taking a tour and the song came to me almost whole whilst I was there. It was really the first song after Flower Song that showed up. We began to include it in our live set. It became one of the songs that I looked forward most to singing and that I think people enjoyed hearing. It felt, to me, central to the record." From the opening guitar riff to the song's infectious refrain, Haven spotlights the winning rapport that's long shaped Jomama's creative partnership with Halvorson.

"We're both rabidly curious people," Jomama notes about her work with Halvorson. "The thing that Bobby says about Flowering is that you're really getting a 50/50 experience. I think with Lone Star, outside of a couple songs, it was largely my lyric and his music but here it is my lyric and then we're really 50/50 with the music. Of course, his profound skill as an arranger and a player is absolutely evident and this is also a sign of his own growth and expansion as a player. I just feel like we have more at our fingertips when we work together now." The sentiment of Fated lends itself to a duet and marks the first time Jomama shares lead vocals with Halvorson. "I really like the idea of the song, that there are people in our lives that we continue to circle back to," she says. "It seems at times that you have made a clean break or you don't want to have anything else to do with them but there's something that's trying to work itself out between you."

In a way, London also considers how certain relationships are fated. Jomama explains, "In this story of London, these two old friends or old lovers meet and they see one another for who they really are and how they have changed as a result of having lived in the world." The song occupies a very special place for Jomama. "London is probably one of my favorite songs of all time that I've created," she continues. "I feel that it is an opportunity to reflect on two things. One, what it means to begin to walk in the world with a bit more wisdom than I might have had when I was younger, to understand the beauty in a life journey and that there are some times where we'd see things more clearly if we approached them with a bit more humility and compassion. The other thing is certainly the invitation to continue to find the wild places in us. What does it mean to allow yourself to lose your way when you're at a point where maybe you're supposed to be very pragmatic in your thinking?"

Along that continuum, artists have often dismantled established conventions by cultivating a "wild" and unfiltered sensibility in their music. In his lifetime, Prince dramatically shifted the musical landscape by remaining steadfast and true to his Muse. "I loved him," says Jomama. "I had the honor of knowing him briefly in the 1980s. I marveled at his boldness not only as a musician, which is evident in every possible way, but as a black man. I found him electrifying in his sense of self, his agency, his control over his creative work and his career, and also his unabashed and abiding love for the people. He never wavered in his love for black people. He was able to tap into sensuality and sexuality and intellectual life and spirituality all at the same time in the most marvelous way. There was just nothing like living inside a Prince song, living in his imagination and feeling close to him as a listener." Written and recorded shortly after Prince's passing in April 2016, Joy is Jomama's purple-hued homage to an artist whose legacy is still being written.

The album proceeds with a series of songs that address the need for change as well as the process of transformation. "The ravages of fear threaten to devour the hope that seems so near," Jomama sings on Seeds. "With this particular song, I'm thinking about our political reality, the idea that we have all of these extraordinary young artists, thinkers, politicians, and activists who are deeply committed to bringing forth a new way of being with one another in this country and, I dare say, the world," she says. "Yet, we are in uncharted territory and so there is a birthing process, this need to let go of what you know in the pursuit of something much more connected, committed, and vital."

Future Light also comments on what Jomama calls "an urgency in the moment." She continues, "We mustn't underestimate one another or ourselves when it comes to the courage that we hold to make these sorts of transformations. I think we are being called to do so at an accelerated rate at this moment." Jomama notes that the song's concluding passage of music, which conjures images of flickering light, was conceived as a means for the listener to integrate both the meaning and experience of Future Light even further.

Like the sun rising through the sky at dawn, Daybreak stirs the senses from sleep, whether mental, spiritual, or physical. "There's a sweetness and a comfort about that sleep and yet we all must wake up," says Jomama. "Daybreak comes from a place of maturity in myself that considers how we break the news to ourselves and to others that it's time to act. I feel like it's one of the songs that's a bit more towards the overtly political but it's not only about politics and social issues. It's also about the environment and about the world. 'Daybreak is upon us,' meaning also that the light is shining on it, so you can't say that you didn't see it."

Riverside wraps the listeners in gusts of rhythm propelled by Halvorson's guitar and the gossamer tones of Jomama's upper register. She explains, "What emerged from me with the song was the sense of the grief that comes when you let go, when you surrender your burden, with the idea in mind that you are humbling yourself to the reality that there are certain things that you cannot control, certain things that are bigger than you, and certain aspects of life that exceed your ability to make sense of them. There are certainly references in the song that speak to me of black history, of burdens and broken promises, and at what point do the burdens become so great that you can't actually move of your own accord and access the things inside yourself that you need and want to access."

The concept behind Regeneration is a fundamental part of what informs Jomama's perspective and threads through many of the songs on Flowering. "I think of the strength and the wisdom and the clarity that comes along with regeneration," she says. "We often look to external systems to be the agents of our collective transformation and it really must begin within. There's something that happens when you let go of the old and you allow yourself to be undone, completely. We see that in the natural world, of course, with the change of the seasons and the life cycle of flowers. They go away and they come back." Against a sparse yet effectively orchestrated background, Jomama's performance on Regeneration captures the wonder of starting anew.

Though Stardust is the final song on Flowering, it also furnishes a beginning of sorts. "Since the moment the song appeared, I knew that it was going to be the last song on the record," says Jomama. "It felt like a call to the listener, to reflect on what they heard, and to move. The song itself has so much space in it, intentionally, to invite us to reflect in a very different way than the particular imaginings that we've had up to that point." When Jomama whispers "now begin," she sparks possibilities heretofore unknown.

"Flowering is my offering at the alter of this moment that we're in," Jomama concludes. "I feel that there's an intimacy in this work and a dynamism in this work that I'm excited to continue to explore as a live performer with an audience. I want the songs to fly and to build relationships with the people who listen to them." Let yourself into Jomama's garden. The gate is always open …

Christian John Wikane (August, 2016)



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