By Steve Werner

Periscope Heart-coverSweetness, lightness, kindness, gentility, joy, love. Boy howdy, we sure could use a little of that stuff these days. When it seems all the news is bad and every jangled headline serves only to drive us ever deeper into despair, I often feel like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant when he screeched, “Does anybody remember laughter?” Fortunately for us, Jackie Morris not only remembers, but holds an abundance of laughter, love and joy in her heart which she deftly shares with us in her fifth studio album, Periscope Heart.

Morris’ warm voice warbling sweetly across these ten original songs invites us to take a moment, breathe and reclaim our own joy of life. Robinson Eikenberry’s production is appropriately light and spacious, leaving plenty of room for Morris and her talented accompanists to shine.

While Morris’ guitar and David Piltch’s upright bass hold down the rhythm throughout, the lead guitars of David West, Tony Ybarra and the ubiquitous Ed Tree are sweet as candy. Rebecca Troon (of Santa Barbara’s Honeysuckle Possums) and Lark Cobb lend their voices to several wonderful harmonies while Lorenzo Martinez and Austin Beede add tasteful percussion to several tracks.

All this great playing is done in service to the songs. Morris’ song-craft is strong, insightful and poetic. There’s a nice variety of songs here. Pop, folk, jazz and blues are all tied together by the breezy yet heartfelt delivery of Morris’ voice.

She croons and scats through the jazzy opener, When the Time Comes and then brews up the delicious blues of Coffee Kisses. Bon Appetit, with Michael Gutin’s evocative accordion celebrates the relaxed wisdom of two-hour lunches of the small town in southern France where Morris has spent the past few summers.

The wistful Autumn Song where “the wind in the trees make the red and gold leaves wave goodbye” floats dreamily aloft with twinkling jazz piano of Julie Bonk. This track also features the incredible whistling of Morris. Yes, that’s right, and it bears mentioning that Morris is indeed keeper of the flame of the lost art of melodic whistling. Not as a novelty but as a real instrument. As far as I know she’s the only one doing this and it blows my mind and melts my heart at the same time.

The cowbell and Latin percussion lead into the jaunty, Jimmy Buffetty Miami where “They’re eating it up and drinking it down,” while the patchwork quilt memories of Through the Eye of a Needle is sewn from scraps of daily living into a work of art.

Sailing Away speaks to the intrepid sailor in all of us and is an empowering message to anyone setting out on a new course, and the down-home blues of Walkin’ Away features Ed Tree’s ripping acoustic guitar and the harmonica of Tom Ball.

Devil in the Heartland is the only song here that deviates from the light-hearted vibe, but its inclusion is necessary because expressing love and light does not come in a vacuum. Reclaiming your joy doesn’t mean turning your mind off to what’s going on in the world. The sentiment of this song is the only possible reaction of a compassionate person to the meanness that overwhelms us today. Even in this darkness Morris never drifts to meanness herself but seeks the answer in kindness. Love beats hate, because it must.

Of all these wonderful songs, it’s the title track I keep returning to. Its beautiful melody, its message of love for her traveling man comes through in every sweet syllable.

I’ve got a periscope heart

I can see above the surface

So when I’m down

I can see more than blue

I can look back in time

To the love and the laughter

But I mostly look forward

To being with you

I think it’s more important now than ever to hang on to every sweetness, embrace every love, nourish every weary soul with kindness and never, ever let anybody steal your joy. Jackie Morris dares to be sweet, to smile and laugh and love and be human. If she can, well, maybe I can too. You should give it a try. Highly recommended.

Periscope Heart is available on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes

Steve Werner is a biker-sailor-adventurer-folksinger-songwriter who lives aboard his sailboat in Ventura California. He has a long strange history in music. Steve plays shows rarely and, like Nosferatu, only when invited. When not invited, he is perfectly content to sail his boat, ride his motorcycle, party with his friends and live small. You can listen and download his recent album "Just Passing Through" for free at https://stevewerner.bandcamp.com or feel free to drop him a line at folksinger59@hotmail.com