Storytellers, in the music world, sit at the crossroad of poetry and staves. Being able to find the alchemy between an incredible vocal timbre, acoustic guitar and lyrical content is far from ordinary. Many good folk songwriters master two of those features. J.S. Ondara in his impressive debut album, Tales Of America, gets quite close to the trifecta.
This is the story of a self-taught artist who had the chance to move abroad to chase his dream and, in a few years, was able to make it real. Tales of America is an encounter where folk, soul and pop get together in a lyrical, melodic and reflective record. The album, which counts eleven songs, opens with a sequence of five where Ondara’s voice virtues are presented in their impressive span.
Socially thick in its words, “American Dream” is the starter, remarkable in the musical shift boosting the finale. As a storyteller, Ondara presents fragments from everyday scenes with a soft, simple and aching touch. Whether it is talking about a “heart never on time, always a little behind”, as in the guitar shaped “Torch Song”, or sketching how fateful feelings may be (“Television Girl”), the singer manages to consistently pick a vivid combination of lyrics and sound.
Along the same idea, “Saying Goodbye” is a gentle, music-wrapped gift. It is placid in its melancholy and, at the same time, graciously powerful. The refrain of “Give A Moment” represents another example of acoustic success and simplicity, whereas “Days Of Insanity” is a vision drawing imagery out of the unconventional.
Tales of America is filled with meditations on society, emotions and life from its opening until the very last note. It is one of those few works where the quality keeps steady and each track would deserve a mention. As a final one, with its anxieties and dreams “God Bless America” closes this book, hopefully the first of a saga to be.