VIOLET JANINE – Between Red And Blue

Between Red & BlueI wonder how many out there there are with just the slightest clue who this band is. See, this lot haven’t been around for that long, so it is not strange at all if your reaction is: “Violet Who?” or “Janine what?”. Well, the band is based around lead singer Janine Nyman and lead guitarist / song writer / producer Daniel Palmquist, a guy that sure has been around the block of melodic rock. Palmquist have contributed to AOR bands such as Find Me, Norwegian singer Issa and melodic metal band The Murder Of My Sweet among others, so it’s an experienced and urbane musician and song writer the band have recruited. The rest of the band consists of lead guitarist Mano Lewys, bass player Basse Blyberg (House Of Shakira) and drummer Ian Brunnberg. For us Swedes – well at least for us rockers that calls Stockholm and its suburbs our home, Janine Nyman isn’t that new, she’s been around for a while now, playing (often acoustic) around clubs and smaller places. Also, there have been two singles by Violet Janine out for a few months now (“Down On My Knees” and “So Much More”, more on those later), but to be honest, the news of the record pretty much showed up right out of the blue a few weeks ago. At least I didn’t know that a whole album was about to come out. I must also admit that I have had only a quick look at the videos and even though I thought they were pretty good, they didn’t make much of an impact on me. But as I said, I didn’t listen closely enough to give them a fair review. To my defense, I knew that I’d be listening to them more carefully later on somewhere along the line, in an album oriented way. I have a thing for listening to the record properly before I watch the videos, for some weird reason. Still, I have always loved Janine’s voice and the songs did have a sound that I’m into so I was pretty excited to hear what Janine and her band had come up with on their debut album.

“Heat Of The Highway” kicks off the album and the title really mirrors the music – yes, this is true American “on-the-road” music. It’s rock and roll with a west-coast vibe, very driven with a melodic but pretty kick-ass beat and a both verses and chorus are very catchy. This is the kind of music that makes me happy, the kind of music that makes me think of summer and cold beer – what’s not to love about that, huh? “Devil In Me” is also a good rocker, pretty raunchy, but the refrain doesn’t lift the song – the verses are better than the chorus. It’s a good track, but not great. In “Tell Me” we get a pop song with a rock vibe – it’s totally cool that it’s not the other way around. The chorus is stickier than sticky – in a good way, but the tune also sports some attitude – this is clearly single material. “Everyday’s A Fight” is the kind of rock ballad that writers like Desmond Child and Diane Warren would sell their mothers to write, a total hit in my book. But rest assured this one is catchy and über melodic without being cheesy – brilliant! “Shut Up” is raunchy and rough with a fistful of attitude and fits Janine’s raspy voice like a glove. A killer track that I bet will go down like a storm live. Former Black Sabbath singer and big voice singer deluxe Tony Martin guests and duets with Janine on the blues rock ballad “So Much More”. The first time I heard it, it passed me by somewhat unnoticed but after a couple of spins, I had a change of heart. Martin and Nyman works together brilliantly and the song, it is big on emotion and feel and even though the melody isn’t the usual radio friendly “don’t bore us get to the chorus” thing, the whole tune is really solid where the verses and chorus works together at making the tune a stand-out track. Awesome! “Better This Than Nothing” comes with a very 70’s inspired foundation, a big groove but still with some major melodic rock, 80’s bound, on top, kinda like an AOR version of Led Zeppelin. Again, this is really damn good. “Story Of Your Life” is an uptempo ballad. The groove makes it a mover and the melody is quite addictive – great! They close the album with the first single “Down On My Knees”, a pretty unusual move. Singer Pontus Snibb, originally with Swedish rockers Bonafide, duets with Janine on the track and the guy does a phenomenal job. For us who knows Bonafide knows that they play a more rough hard rock, influenced by the AC/DC sound so it’s really cool to hear how well he masters the melodic rock side of things. The fact that it didn’t become a major hit is both unfair and a bit strange as the song is a total killer. The chorus is really bulls-eye and the whole tune kicks up some dust and really rocks – what a great way to end this record.

The fact that we only get nine songs might seem a bit cheap, but when you think about it, hasn’t the concept of squeezing as many songs on a CD as you can become quite old? I mean, I prefer quality over quantity any day and to put 15 songs on album just because you can just feel like overkill. There are usually too many skip-button tracks on those albums and a shorter play time makes it easier to go through an album back to back, so I embrace this. Back to the days when you got 9 – 11 (oops!) tracks on a record, then. To sum this album up, the music here is not revolutionary by any means but who cares? I mean, the wheel has already been invented and as long as you deliver the goods with great songs and passion, that’s good enough for me. And good songs and passion is what Violet Janine brings us. See, this is not a heavy album, it lies more within the shape of American rock, AOR, melodic hard rock and plain rock, but never ever do this record get cheesy. The narrow-minded headbanger might beg to differ on this, but the way I hear this is that this band have attitude, heart, soul and a big love for the music they play and they do it with all the conviction in the world. Just because an album is melodic and big on catchiness doesn’t make it cheesy per se. Some bands in this genre are, but not Violet Janine. Also, all the musicians are top notch and Janine is such an amazing singer. With a big range, a brilliant vibrato and a sexy raspiness makes her one of the best female rock vocalists around. A solid release that should sell by the pound in a fair world. Go make the world fair, folks.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Heat Of The Highway
2. Devil In Me
3. Tell Me
4. Everyday’s A Fight
5. Shut up
6. So Much More (feat. Tony Martin)
7. Better This Than Nothing
8. Story Of Your Life
9. Down On My Knees (feat. Pontus Snibb)

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