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Jesca Hoop

Born Jessica Ada Hoop, April 21, 1975, Santa Rosa, California, “Jesca” was raised as a Mormon by her devout parents, who separated when she was only a young teenager. Free of the shackles of religion, HOOP discovered her faith in people whilst she lived in the wooded areas (mainly in yurts and converted chicken shacks) surrounding North California and Wyoming. Her rural environs made her the ideal candidate to work in Arizona alongside wayward greenhorns in need of attention, sustenance and survival lessons.
The creative Jesca – in essence an indie-folk artist – always had an interest in music; especially in becoming a nanny to TOM WAITS and wife Kathleen Brennan. The couple was conducive to the development of HOOP’s career; as was a tide-over advance from publishing company Lionel Conway that produced a CD-r EP, `Silverscreen Demos’, in 2004. One of the tracks, `Seed Of Wonder’, was spun several times on disc-jockey Nic Harcourt’s “Morning Becomes Electric” show on KCRW, thus garnering the attention of Columbia Records and subsidiary RED Ink. The major label roped in producer Tony Berg (head of the short-lived 3Entertainment), who worked with HOOP on her debut set, KISMET (2007) {*7} – meaning “Destiny”; though its shelf-life was cut short after only a few months. A hybrid hue of genres, there was certainly a smorgasbord of influences on show: from elegant 40s-styled jazz to blues, and hip hop (`Love And Love Again’, `Out The Back Door’ et al), or country (`Summertime’) to the quirky contemporary pop of `Seed Of Wonder’; the latter now a fresh re-vamp featuring drummer STEWART COPELAND.
Folk’s visionary Vanguard Records proffered up their services for idiosyncratic Jesca’s sophomore set, HUNTING MY DRESS (2009) {*7}; released several months down the line for British independent imprint, Last Laugh. Although peppered with her own musical DNA, there was definitely inspiration that sprung from KATE BUSH and PJ HARVEY, to SUZANNE VEGA and FAUN FABLES.
Jesca duly relocated to Manchester, England, where she recorded the 6-track EP, `Snowglobe’, for release in 2011. Bella Union Records took control of the US angle of her campaign for THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (2012) {*8}; an album that created a stir in its anti-folk alt/indie-pop agenda. Produced by Shawn Everett, Blake Mills and the aforesaid Tony Berg, HOOP had come a long way from her roots as a greenhorn indie act; the proof in the pudding, so to speak, catchy cuts such as `Born To’, `When I’m Asleep’ and the title track.
As a belated companion to 2013’s live-in-concert THE COMPLETE KISMET ACOUSTIC {*6}, the re-workings set UNDRESS (2014) {*7} shone a different perspective on her best-loved songs; collaboration highlights coming thick and fast by way of `Murder Of Birds’ (ft. ELBOW’s Guy Garvey), `Whispering Light (ft. WILLY MASON), `Tulip’ (ft. Erika Wennerstrom) and `Hunting My Dress’ (ft. Sam Beam). The latter alt-folk shepherd (aka IRON & WINE) brewed a heady cocktail of rootsy, rustic Americana alongside Jesca for joint set, `Love Letter For Fire’ (2016).
Settling with indie music’s iconic imprint, Sub Pop (and the aforesaid Blake Mills), the shape-shifting all-encompassing JESCA HOOP finally remembered she’d a solo career a la MEMORIES ARE NOW (2017) {*7} – the concept of carpe diem came to the fore. Sadly, on a commercial scale, Jesca was still bubbling under the Billboard 200, or the UK 100, though her critical acclaim was such that she could afford the booking of FIONA APPLE to play harmonica on `Cut Connection’. The jaunty juxtaposition of Jesca was, to her credit, her forte on `Unsaid’, whilst her sociopolitical wit on `Simon Says’ lent her an empowering edge over the Stateside shenanigans of the chaotic times.
Switching allegiances from Sub Pop to Memphis Industries, 2019’s STONECHILD {*7} saw her now working with stalwart PJ HARVEY producer/collaborator JOHN PARISH. The guest list agenda had grown significantly from her previous encounters, and on this occasion there were invites for THIS IS THE KIT’s Kate Stables, English lass ROZI PLAIN (alias Rosalind Leyden) and so-called indie harmonists LUCIUS (i.e. Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe). There was a sense Jesca was missing living in the cosier climes of California, however her abundance of warmth and airy ambience could still fire up fans who’d love the lush and glistening glow of `Shoulder Charge’, `Outside Eden’ and `All Time Low’. Like every other good American patriot of democracy and free will, Jesca’s politically-charged `Old Fear Of Father’ (about patriarchal misogyny) and `Red White And Black’ (concerning the burgeoning white supremacy movement), were brave attempts at enlightenment through song.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2019

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