Singer and Trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick Issues Tender Portrait of Human Condition Exploring Love, Loss and Growth with New Music on Something in the Water Available September 9 via Christian McBride’s Mack Avenue Music Group Imprint, Brother Mister Productions
Acclaimed vocalist, trumpeter and composer Jennifer Hartswick issues Something in the Water, her fourth record as a leader and first for Christian McBride’s Mack Avenue Music Group imprint Brother Mister Productions. Reprising her studio collaboration with renowned bassist and dear friend McBride, the highly sought-after singer and trumpeter interprets nine new tracks comprised of original repertoire and fresh arrangements of familiar songs alongside her core ensemble and featured guests. Co-written with guitarist and album producer Nick Cassarino, Something in the Water presents a tender portrait of the human condition, brimming with humor and vulnerability. “We wanted to celebrate the human experience,” says the Nashville-based artist. “We wanted to write about all facets of love and life and loss and gain. There’s definitely an arc of someone’s life in this album.”
Hartswick is a true working artist. For the past two decades, the small-town girl turned powerhouse professional has appeared at clubs and arenas throughout the world, in diverse ensembles and as a founding member of the Trey Anastasio Band (TAB); her buoyant expression and harmonic reflexes have become integral to the project’s signature sound. To her original music, Hartswick brings effervescing spontaneity and degrees of self-disclosure. Her songs intensify. She layers sound on sound, stacking horns, threading vocals and seeking opportunities for instrumental role-shifting and conversational trades. In addition to those from McBride and Cassarino, Something in the Water features contributions from longtime collaborators drummer Conor Elmes, vocalist Celisse Henderson and keyboardist Rob Marscher, as well as trombonists Natalie Cressman and Roy Agee, among other special guests.
Recorded at Sound Emporium alongside engineer Joe Costa, and mixed and mastered by Greg Magers and Dan Shike, respectively, Something in the Water came to life in Nashville following an impromptu writing retreat in New England. Hartswick and Cassarino spent a week and a half at a closed bed and breakfast in Vermont during the winter of 2021; there, they focused on composing the entire record in a controlled environment, with lyric input from songwriter Erin Boyd. “We’d write and cook and write and cook and laugh and cry and write and cook,” says Hartswick. “That was the purpose of the trip, to see if we could write an album.”
Part memoir, part fiction, Something in the Water intercuts vignettes of the human condition with elements of Hartswick’s lived experiences: “Who’s to say which ones are real? I hope the storytelling is good enough that people don’t know.” The album opens on “Only Time Will Tell” with virtuosic tone-casting from McBride out front. A thick, buoyant groove becomes a vessel for Hartswick’s gilded wall of trumpets and lyrical interplay between her voice and her horn. Penned by Boyd and Cassarino, “Fairytale” explores the course of love. Hartswick’s mastery of phrasing and artful dynamics share the story of loss and understanding. Her trumpet responds to her vocal, briefly and only once; in that moment, she captures memory, illusion and acceptance. “Two Way Mirror” pops with syncopation and nuance. She greases her trumpet solo with short melodic phrases and rhythmic intention.
Trades between Hartswick and Agee bend around an elastic New Orleans pulse on “By the River.” With vocal contributions from Shira Elias and Maureen Murphy, the song celebrates reveries of girlhood. Randy Newman’s “Guilty” provides an unadorned rumination between Hartswick and McBride. They ebb and flow together, their hookup persisting from opening measure to final phrase. “We met on the bandstand,” says Hartswick, referencing her relationship with the eight-time GRAMMY® Award-winning artist. “And I felt like he’s someone I have spent time with in another life. To have Christian on my previous record was a huge deal for me. He’s been such an incredible supporter of mine since day one.”
A nod to her beloved jam band scene, “For You” proffers a relaxed groove across a harmonic multiverse. “Innocence” features Cressman’s arrangement of symphonic, layered trombones. “We were going to have strings on that track, and then I heard something Natalie had recorded as a beautiful trombone choir,” says Hartswick. “She never asked for a chart. Her ear is out of control. She’s really special.” Flexing Cassarino’s loving treatment of vintage — and ’90s — R&B elements, “Enamored” serves as the album’s love anthem. His brief but enduring solo gesture offers listeners a sonic glimpse at his warmth and lyricism. Together, he and Hartswick summon a full, near choral sound on album closer, Dave Matthews’ “Weary.” Admittedly, they recorded the song uncertain of whether it would appear on the record. “We ended up feeling like it was a really appropriate button,” says Hartswick. “What better message of support, especially for what we’re all going through?”
Over the years, Hartswick’s sound has evolved and refined. She views her horn and her voice as different facets of a single expression that shapeshifts as she enters new phases of life and work. Something in the Water presents a snapshot of one moment’s present tense. She appreciates her listeners’ willingness to explore each discovery alongside her: “My music is blossoming. More life has been lived and evolution is happening. I hope people who listen do so with an open heart.”
Jennifer Hartswick · Something in the Water
Brother Mister Productions · Release Date: September 9, 2022 (CD + Digital); September 23, 2022 (LP)