Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A short history of the American guitarist, Jen Turner (updated)




Jen Turner playing  bass at the Coachella Festival.
She appears to have come out of New Jersey  . Her first instrument was the piano, but at some point she was also a ardent drummer playing in drum circles.  As a teenager, she hitched around the country for four months to learn to play guitar. 

   
Jen Turner performing at the Meadowlands in 1995 with Natalie Merchant.

Somehow in early twenties, she  ended up being picked to play lead guitar on Natalie Merchant’s debut solo album, Tigerlily. That is where her  biggest  commercial success occurs with her playing some just  amazing guitar on the album's  songs, most notably on "Carnival" and "Wonder".   Turner  was so good that she was almost upstaging  Merchant. After two years she ended up leaving the Merchant backing band and formed her own group, Furslide  in 1997.


Furslide, which she fronted as lead singer and guitarist  also  included  Jason Lader and Adam MacDougall. They  released their debut album titled Adventure in fall 1998 and played a few shows subsequently in the US, the UK and all across Europe (for example opening for Lenny Kravitz on October 8, 1998 in Detroit, they also where the support act for Kula Shaker, Alanis Morissette and Ben Folds). In 1999 they dissolved, not having been commercially successful. 

In 2001 and 2002 she made two excellent albums as lead singer with a new group, called Inner, the  group also included Erica Quitzow, Samuel Omeechevaria and Fabien Waltmann. These two records  were released on her own independent record label, Caboose Music.

Inner's first release was  an EP called Dog Demos in 2001.The demos  were supposedly all recorded in one take.  They released a full length album,  Lovetheonlyway in 2002. This may be her best work up to now-vocally she sounds like Jane Siberry here. The songs here   are  very introspective, raw, confessional and original sounding. What struck me is how the  lyrics kept going in unexpected places. 


Jen Turner  appears to have kept  a lower profile for a few years in the middle 2000’s. Since 2007 she has mostly worked in bands where she is not the front person. Perhaps, an understandable approach since she is a better instrumentalist than vocalist, but a little more frustrating for those trying to pick her "musical voice" out of the competing voices of the band she is working in. She  worked on two albums playing guitar  with Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts.  Those albums are called Let’s Just Be (2007) and Temporary People (2008).


 

In 2009 she was  documented doing  some live work in the style of Inner at a gig at the Living Room in New York City.

Around 2009 or 2010  she joined Here We Go Magic and was with them for their second and third albums. This was her blond period.  With this group she played bass and keyboards. She   produced their 2010 album, Pigeons (released June 2010) and was also with for them for  their album,   Different Ship in 2012.   She left that band abruptly in a airport in a misunderstanding over sausages.

In 2012  she engineered (and played drums on!) the album,  In Limbo, by the group Teen. I can't think of too many people who went from guitar to bass/keyboards to engineer/drums over the space of a few albums. Yes, multi-instumentalists have done all these at once on albums, but to go from specific role to another role-that's unusual.

       For a time  in  the 2010's  she  worked in a side project  called Thrillionaire which features another female singer, Henrietta Tiefenthaler, they sing lush psychedelic melodies over German Krautrock beats. She also did  some concerts recently as part of a group called Alamar. 

 
Thrillionaire 
In 2013/she was  in a duo  called  Exclamation Pony with  Brit Ryan Jarman (who’s regular band is the Cribs) in  late 2013,they released a single   called "Pseudo Individual".

In 2015,she joined up with the group High Desert Fires. Bun-headed Chris Traynor fronts the band, sings and plays guitar. Jen  plays  guitar and sings. Gabriella Da Silva  sings, Taylor McLam plays drums and  sings, Drew Broadrick plays piano and sings,   Sibyl Buck plays the bass and sings and  Naren Rauch is a multi instrumentalist.  Jen worked with Sibyl Buck before in the Lonely Astronauts. Chris Traynor is similar to Jen in that he has a long experience in various bands (most notably Bush), and plays more than one instrument.


 Jen makes a short appearance in a new documentary about the Tigerlily album that was released as part of a new Natalie Merchant release called, Paradise Is There. See link below


http://www.nonesuch.com/journal/nonesuch-natalie-merchant-paradise-is-there-new-tigerlily-recordings-dvd-2015-08-13




Recently, she  produced a new album by NYC trio, American Anyman.

What little I have read about  Jen Turner as a person suggests that she is a humble and kind person with a free spirit.  Her  music career has been a unique mix of  continuing reinvention and great mystery.

 There are rumors that Jen  is working on solo material-here's hoping!

 Chest Rockwell's video upload of "Carnival"-
 https://vimeo.com/218876480

43 comments:

  1. Interesting ! Thank You !
    I like her !!

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  2. Her work on "Carnival" is masterful! I bet she is tired of hearing this, but it truly is amazing! Hope she is doing well.
    G

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. Outstanding guitar work!

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  3. As a musician some years her senior, Jennifer's absolute brilliance as both a guitarist and a musician largely failed on many of her later projects. I'm not sure how such a gifted player could wander as far out of the zone she owned when playing behind other artists back in the Kate 90's. Hope she comes raging back !

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    1. Yeah-that is also part of her narrative-people question if she is still as brilliant as she was.

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  4. A master at her art to say the least. Her version of both Carnival and Wonder took my soul hostage, and still has it every time I hear those songs. A true Bohemian, she lives for her passion, and that alone, very humble, this website is the most I could find about her, and I truly admire her and her talent...

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    1. Yeah-there isn't even a Wikipedia article about her.

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    2. not any longer ;) - as i just found my old furslide album (no i didn't know the Merchant stuff before) i wondered what happened to her - and while searching the internet i used this and several other pages to create a wiki side (which will hopefully not stay a draft). Big thanks to Felpin!!!

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    1. I think your closer to the truth than I am- I don't have an exact date, I think I based that on press reports relating to her work with Natalie Merchant. But it doesn't really make sense. So I will change that..

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  6. Jen is also a beautiful gal with a beautiful soul. I know when and where she was born, but I'm not gonna tell.

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  7. Jen also did an amazing job touring Santi Gold's debut record as a bass player, recorded on Perry Farrell's solo album, and shredded the the classical influenced guitar solo on Julian Casablanca's (Strokes) solo record in the song Glass.

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  9. In Natalie Merchant's recent documentary chronicling the making of Tigerlily, interestingly enough, Jen is the only band member that is highlighted. There is a short segment of Natalie speaking to Jen about those days, leafing through a picture album. Jen also plays a tune of her own as they sit on a couch discussing old times. I found the entire documentary quite fascinating, particularly this segment, which eventually led me to learn more about Jen, which is why I am here.

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    1. Do you have a link to this documentary? I did see an article recently where Natalie was talking about Jen being in the band (during the Tigerlily era)... as a "young adolescent to deal with, & I was only 30 at the time." I can't find the link to that recent article. Some tidbits regarding the recording session, guitar she used, etc., can be found here: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/jennifer-turner-on-natalie-merchants-carnival.485406/

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  10. I think I found the documentary, however you have to buy it online?
    Natalie Merchant's recent documentary chronicling the making of Tigerlily....."Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings" with Companion Documentary on DVD Out Now
    http://www.nonesuch.com/journal/natalie-merchant-paradise-there-new-tigerlily-recordings-dvd-out-now-2015-11-06existi
    Lastly.... I have seen live performances of NM on Youtube with her current band in 2015.
    IMO, the guitarist playing on all the songs, but more specifically, "Carnival" & "Wonder" is HORRIBLE. He barely tries to duplicate Jen's riffs, which leaves the listener disappointed. I've heard him fumble for notes & hit BAD notes... I cringed! I don't know why he hasn't been fired? IMO, Jen was the "magic" on Tigerlily, & why NM would replace her with someone so awful (to recreate the Tigerlily experience) is beyond me.8-)

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    1. I added the documentary...Yeah,if anybody other then Jen plays guitar on those songs it doesn't sound the same.

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    2. A savvy guitarist knows not to try to crib one of the golden moments of a superior player. To flip this a little, I was one of those guys who - while I never would say "girls can't play guitar" - well, what I did say is "I keep waiting for the female Clapton." And then I'd sneer.

      Then I saw Jen play with NM on Saturday Night Live or something like that ~1996... I positively levitated of the couch and started screaming at my wife (who 20 years later is still my wife) "Did you hear that!!!!" My wife isn't a musician, so I'm not sure she got it. It wasn't just a series of production tricks, Turner played too clean for that. And it wasn't a one-off studio thing, she played those figures with her insane tone again and again live.

      So, I was wrong... Now when my befuddled elementary-age daughter look suspiciously at her guitar and refuses to practice, I put on Tigerlily and tell her that all the genius on that record is flowing out of two women. All young guitarists - yes, especially girls - need to hear Jen Turner, and experience the spiritual heights of what a musician - regardless of gender - can attain.

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  11. I sincerely appreciate this blog post. There is precious little information about Jen Turner available online, though I suspect this is somewhat by her design. I think you've captured just about everything relevant to her musical journey. Her guitar on _Tigerlily_ was so compelling--so precocious--that I still marvel upon listening over two decades after the record's release. Her melodic sensibility and service to the Natalie Merchant's music belied her years. Her playing was bold, yet graceful; muscular, yet so elementally feminine. Another guitar player could never have recorded these songs with such beautifully understated power. _Tigerlily_ may be Natalie Merchant's masterpiece, but it is also Jen Turner's masterwork.

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    1. Everybody is in awe of that Tigerlily stuff!

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    2. Beautifully said. Jen's guitar work is just as heart touching as Natalie's words. A Masterwork indeed...

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  12. Count me among those who find Turner to be an inventive and inspiring guitarist. From her Gilmour-esque solo on Carnival to her fine riffs and accompaniment on Wonder (perhaps sounding just a bit like Duane Allman towards the end), she is simply very enjoyable to listen to, unlike the plethora of monotonous female shredders out there.

    With respect to her age, according to Natalie Merchant in the Paradise is There documentary, Jennifer was 22 years old when she was hired to play on Tigerlily.

    Also interesting is that according the person who recommended Jennifer for the Tigerlily gig (he posts as Matte on the Gear Page), Jennifer had only been playing guitar for four years when she was hired.

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  13. hi there - just wanted to thank you for your text - I used it as part of the template for a wikipedia article. Hope that is fine with you.

    Shes really hard to come by - with all the band names, the other jen turner (quite common name in general) from Nz and her not liking the spotlight (which i can totally understand).

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  14. The first draft is ready - anyone to add something or correct errors - feel free to jump in:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft:Jennifer_Turner_(musician)
    I also set this page as a reference

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    1. Hope they don't delete it-hard as it may to believe the Wiki Nazi's may not think her notable enough to have an article.

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    2. Jen does have a FaceBook page (easy to find). She & I share a mutual friend (go figure? small world!) I reached out to her a year ago regarding her guitar choice preferences. She never responded.
      Here latest musical post is dated 12/20/16 with this link; http://www.therecordstache.com/2016/12/american-anymen-lise-live-in-nyc/
      On that link, is a YouTube video that she produced:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tnfUaO8Pj0
      Regards,
      jon

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    3. Well, she definitely played a Stratocaster on the big Tigerlily single. I believe I also read an interview in the late 90s where - if I'm not mistaken - she was asked why she was playing a Gibson Gold Top (implicitly instead of the Stratocaster that made her famous) and she compared the sound of a Gibson to drawing with a big thick toddler-sized Crayola. ...Which is absolutely true. Until then I could tell the difference between a Tele and a Strat by tone, but not the Gibson from anything else. Now I can.

      Incidentally, you can copy a guitarists rig, but it's very hard to copy a good one's tone. Anyway, why would you want to? Maybe Ms. Turner shares that viewpoint.

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    4. Oh... and Paul Reed Smith... So, like any true professional, she picks the right tool based on the job.

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    5. @ felpin - although i would not use that term (coming from Europe) i get your point.
      I started this as i looked at my furslide album for the first time after a few years and asked myself what actually happened to them. Turned out to be a bigger project - mainly because of wikipedia reviewers..

      They mainly really dont give no good reasons for declining articles and just point to guidelines which - in my opinion - the references i looked up matched even before the article was accepted instead of making good points for doing so (especially if you compare to other available articles).

      Anyway - i had the luck to have a reviewer in the wikipedia live chat which i could talk to: and live contact helped - she got a wikipedia article now.

      Although the first versions had much more informations - which i had to cut out to as it seems to get an article accepted it seems the shorter the better..
      Done is done - and things can be added now more easily i guess (like the discography i had in the beginning but had to delete for whatever reason).

      So - if you ever want to get an article there: start with as little as possible and best use printed references - books and magazines to show notability.

      Fun fact about all this tam-tam thats made about notability, reliable significant references - check out the other Jennifer Turner article on wikipedia (you'll know what i mean once you see it..
      Lets see which Jennifer Turner gets more hits over time;)

      Also as addition to you article: she toured with the lemonheads in 2015 - and seems to work as producer a lot of the time it seems.
      I ll add the discography i already to the article soon.

      Anyone looking for videos of here just check those of the bands she was in at some point - theres quite a lot out there.

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    6. Well done, Ted. When I read the guidelines,I felt she might not be notable enough, simply because she has not had a major hit album on her own, or with one of her groups, so I am impressed you got the article accepted.

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  16. As a guitarist for over 4o years I have to proclaim that Jen Turner gives me goosebumps! Her fills and solo on Carnival and the appearance with Natalie on Letterman are what got my attention and ask "who the hell is that"! Like other great guitarists she has feel and tone that can't be taught.

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  17. Thanks for writing this - so little information about her out there. I was lucky enough to see Furslide live in the late '90s and followed her career since then. I agree with you that the Inner record is her very best and what she should be known for. There's something new in it every time you listen.

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  18. Hi all,

    I just posted Natalie Merchant and Jennifer Turner discussing Tigerlily on YouTube.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz2-L3iQ_pI

    Enjoy.

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    1. Thank you. That was very cool.
      Young Jen was "in the right place, at the right time".... how lucky for her! Natalie was already a household name at the time, & the other members already had touring & large gigs under their belt.

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  19. I have another gift for everyone. I just posted on Vimeo live performances of both Carnival and Wonder from October 1995 with Jennifer Turner on guitar. These have not been previously posted elsewhere. They are from an off-the-air recording of a popular weekend night comedy skit show. I was unable to post them to YouTube, so I put them on Vimeo. Enjoy.

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    1. Chest... can you provide the link? I searched Vimeo & only came up with Jen doing a solo song from 2/20/16
      https://vimeo.com/156457267

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    2. https://vimeo.com/219778034

      https://vimeo.com/218876480

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    3. Wow! That's some of the best footage I've seen. And Jen changed up some of the notes, & phrasing... nonidentical to the original LP.
      That was very inspiring. Thank you for breathing new life into these , now classic songs, even if these recordings are 22 years old. They never go out of style or get old.

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