On first listen, Glow, the debut solo disc from San Francisco singer-songwriter Jenifer McKitrick, comes across as tough as a Joan Jett growl or a pair of her road-tested leather trousers. But once you spend some time with its eleven songs, you find the center’s softer, more vulnerable, than it first appeared.
Part of that is due to McKitrick’s voice. More suited to a roadhouse than a coffee shop, she projects a mixture of snarl and sass that works well on songs such as “Glow” and “So Far Gone”. That these and other songs have the feel of slightly twanged-out 1970s rock is no coincidence: The album was co-produced by Sandy Pearlman, who cut his teeth a couple decades back working with Blue Oyster Cult, the Dictators, and the Clash (he also produced the Dream Syndicate’s sophomore gem, the hard-rockin’ Medicine Show).
McKitrick was formerly a member of San Francisco country band Swingin’ Doors, which received decent local acclaim but broke up after just one album. Despite those musical roots, on Glow, the honky-tonk approach of her earlier group is gone. You can hear remnants in the rhythms and guitar playing (some by Chuck Prophet), but overall this record’s about rock ‘n’ roll.
Still, not every song is a gear grinder. “Why”, for instance, has a thick tone, but a slower, more introspective pace. By the time we reach the bare-bones piano intro of “Love Is All You Are”, things have quieted considerably. This comes to nearly full fruition on the light and lilting “Angel (Requiem)”, on which McKitrick allows her folksier side to show through; the song adds textural depth to the record.
Ditto for “Come On Now”, the joyfully ragged album closer. When McKitrick sings “Come on out to San Francisco/See how life doesn’t really have to be so hard,” she’s not such a badass after all. Goodness, she actually sounds like a hippie. It’s calling for the return of a lost lover, but the sentiments are real, not soaked beyond recognition in hipster irony. And that’s refreshing. As is much of this album.