I have been a long time admirer of Jonatha Brooke, since I picked up her first band The Story’s debut record for £1 in a Kingston bargain bin. Often, however, her songs have been a little fussy and cluttered to catch my ear.
Midnight Hallelujah changed that for me. Interestingly after following a one woman musical play about her mother’s dementia Brooke sets her songs free and they flow like fresh mountain streams, flowing in catchy melody, words tumbling over each other, cascading into a pool of her most satisfying collection.
In such songs Brooke takes on the issues. There is gun control, mental illness and a lot of wrestling with God. There are a couple of corking grown up love songs too.
On Mean Looking Jesus it would seem that faith in Jesus has been dismissed. The song, however, is built around a photograph of a living room in New Orleans trashed by Hurricane Katrina. On the wall is a picture is a mean looking Jesus which becomes again a symbol of a Jesus presented on a marble cross that might not be the grace centric saving one of the Gospels. It makes for some moody brooding guitar menace of a song.
Midnight Hallelujah is a particularly tricky song for the minister. It is a song of sacred and lust blurring. It is a theme of the record, the questioning of faith, the honesty with doubt. As Brooke declares here:
“I’m a tongue tied, black belt sinner
But I’m running with the saints.”
Like most of the modern struggles with faith, it needs to be worked out how much Brooke is struggling with God and how much she is struggling with the God she is being presented with. Again, here in Midnight Hallelujah she’s looking for grace and only finding hypocrisy. The escape to a sexual fling to find hallelujah, amen and revelation is hardly an advisable pilgrimage to more authentic faith but there is bath water here that needs thrown out.
Heavy lyrical thought in the lightest touches of melody are just my thing. The quality of the poetry and the eclectic moods cast by the arrangements make Midnight Hallelujah stunning piece of art.