Every once in a while an album comes along that grabs your attention, and forces you to really listen to it. Not just hear the album, but actually listen to the story that each song tells. Our Lady J’s Picture of a Man is one such album. And for it to be achieved on a debut record, says a lot about the kind of talent Our Lady J possesses.
Picture of a Man doesn’t suit the role of background music. It does not lend itself well to listen to while reading a book – I tried – and I always got lost in Our Lady J’s voice as she drew me away from the book I was reading, and into the story she was telling me. If you’re going to listen to this album, set aside 40 minutes and let Our Lady J entertain you. Sharing tales of love, survival and transgender experiences, Picture of a Man does more than just entertain, it will touch you in a way that few artists can manage.
From the very beginning of the title, and opening track, it feels like Our Lady J’s voice can barely be contained on record. More suited to large theatrical spaces, her voice takes on an air of Broadway star, rather than pop starlet. She takes on both of these roles however, as well as that of classical pianist (heard not only in her own work, but the inclusion of Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No.1 and Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2) and there is experimentation with electronic music here too. On paper it sounds like there may be almost too much happening, but Our Lady J wears the appropriate musical hat for the song that needs it. Never adding too much to a track, and certainly never leaving it empty.
“We Stand” echoes around the listener giving the sense of hearing it performed in a church. A rather appropriate setting for the post-religious gospel Our Lady J spreads to her parish. The gospel sound of “We Stand” fits perfectly with this song of hope; just as the haunting, erratic strings of “Man” aptly reflect the turmoil heard in the lyrics. “Firefly” is a personal highlight as it speaks volumes to anyone who is still looking for their place in this world. While “Elegance” steps away from the classical feel with a walk on the electronic/pop side, before culminating in the biggest operatic choir performance of the record.
Our Lady J has created a beautiful and moving debut record that is well worth your attention. And it’s just the beginning of what looks to be a promising and rewarding journey.