“Will You Leave The Light On?” the second album released by the folk duo Jennings & McComber, follows the themes this husband and wife team began with their 2016 release “Let Fall The Fire.” Kara and Andy Lake are still deeply in love after more than 20 years and their songs exude this feeling. The singing is melodious and the instrumentation layered.
As we wrote in our 2016 review, there is no Jennings nor McComber in this duo. The duo is named for their maternal grandmothers.
On this lengthy album, 11 tracks and 53 minutes, the Lakes sing about remembering a lost family member, “Misere,” the hometown train station, “Chesham Station,” and the emigration of a family member to America, “Georgena McCumber’s,” among others.
The Lakes write songs from real life emotions and their family history. They are without much pretense. Their lyrics are straightforward and the sincerity of their songs is palpable. The couple share writing credentials, with each partner contributing songs and two songs written together.
For this duo, the major themes are love and family. They have four children and perform live sparingly, but it’s obvious from the songs that they are serious musicians with a positive point of view.
Andy Lake is responsible for making Jennings & McComber’s recorded sound interesting. He’s a multi-instrumentalist playing six different instruments, including guitar, baritone guitar, a long-neck banjo, double bass, mandolin and accordion. He studied double bass in college at Keene State and uses his skills well. His assortment of instruments is used sparingly, and he doesn’t overdo his substantial chops.
Kara Lake is the primary vocalist playing rhythm guitar and ukulele. This is one of few singer/songwriter albums of late that does not include guest performers. The Lakes cover all the instrumental bases.
For their first CD, the Lakes recorded at the Brookfield Pond Village Church with David Goldsworthy. While the sound was good, some of the mixes, especially in the instruments, were a bit muddy. For this sophomore album, Kristina Stykos took over the production and, we assume, the recording in her Chelsea studio. The vocals sparkle and the backing instruments are well placed in the mix.
The Lakes aren’t particularly political in their approach to song writing, but Track 5, “Somebody,” was composed during the 2016 presidential election. Kara Lake, the writer, says in the album notes that “We live in the heart of Vermont where people often wave as they drive past each other on the back roads, even if as strangers. The election was so concerning and heated that for a few weeks it seemed that we forgot to see one another. A simple hello means much in these loud days things get too depressing sometimes.”
The song opens with “Somebody, anybody, won’t somebody say ‘hello?’ Say, ‘How are ya? It’s nice to see you,’ and put your hand on my shoulder, it’s been too long since I saw somebody smile, my brother, my sister, too long.”
Lake has a point here, but I’m afraid she may be frustrated in her effort as 2020 approaches.
Jennings & McComber may not knock your socks off with catchy taglines and snappy rhythms. Their songs seem a bit long at times, but the essence of their message is one that lowers the blood pressure and reminds you to seek out your loved one and give them a hug.