Written by Jane Ponte
Even during a global pandemic, it is always a great day when the universe conspires on the behalf of music lovers everywhere and gifts us with meaningful, refreshing new twists on material from artists we have grown to know and love. For fans of “Folk ‘n Roll” artist Jaimee Harris, a musical offering of the highest caliber has indeed arrived. Released on March 5th, The Congress House Sessions EP revisits 7 previously released tunes from her critically acclaimed debut album, Red Rescue (2018), and breathes new life into these already exquisite, deeply personal songs.
The EP, which was recorded in the heart of Austin, TX at the legendary Congress House recording studio and produced by Bruno and Franziska Mancia, is both raw and hopeful, and draws the listener in from its inception. “Damn Right,” the EP’s first track, is a perfect example of how Harris has mastered the art of crafting a hauntingly beautiful song that is powerful enough to break your heart while simultaneously leaving you wanting more of her and her poignant lyrics and deliciously intriguing vocals.
Harris’s songwriting has always been consistently top-notch. Perhaps her two best-known songs, “Snow White Knuckles” and “Red Rescue,” which made a believer and fan out of me several years ago, are included on the EP, and both versions are exquisite. Although I would not go so far as to say that I prefer these versions to the originals, I most certainly will say that I could listen to both repeatedly and never grow tired of these tunes. The new versions have a loveliness about them that actually left me with a lump in my throat and profound admiration of Harris’s consistent ability to pour her heart out and share her vulnerability with the listener. I believe this is one of the things I adore the most about Jaimee Harris; she has the courage to expose her humanity and keep things 100% real with her listener. She tells the truth, and is not afraid to show us who she is—warts and all. She candidly speaks about her struggles with depression and addiction and has the uncanny ability to invite her listeners in and share her hopes, dreams, fears and losses. There’s just no pretense with Jaimee Harris—she is who she is– and, through her craft, invites her listeners to fearlessly embrace their own humanity and let their own light shine as well.
I would be remiss in my duty as both a music lover and a fledgling music blogger if I did not take a moment to recognize how much Harris has grown as a guitar player and a vocalist since the release of Red Rescue. For those familiar with the weekly livestream she and her partner, Mary Gauthier, have put together during the pandemic to entertain their loyal fanbase and to do their damndest to not let COVID-19 steal their joy, while standing firm on their lifelong quest to share their absolute love of music and friendship with the world, Sundays With Mary has often showcased Harris performing tunes of her own and playing lead guitar to Gauthier’s songs as well. This venture has proven to be an excellent catalyst for bolstering Harris’s confidence, as evidenced by her impeccable phrasing and flawless guitar playing on the new EP. Not only has she improved as a player, but the bare-boned style with which she delivers gems such as “Catch it Now” still brings a tear to my ear as her voice echoes through my living room with an omnipotent resonance.
This delightful effort from Harris leads me to believe that there is plenty more where that came from, and I honestly cannot wait to see what else is in store for Harris—and for her lucky fans—as she continues to grow and develop as an artist and as a prominent female talent in the wonderful world of music. The Congress House Sessions is a confident and cool record, and it leaves the listener feeling a little bit better just for having heard it. It’s a heaping helping of hope and heart, and it gets better with each listen. Big props to Harris for taking this leap of faith and showcasing these great songs in this stripped-down, tender format. Give it a listen—it’ll definitely heal whatever may be ailing ya.