It's perhaps an odd concept to pursue for your third album, but for London-born, New York-based songwriter Essie Jain the time felt right to put her soothing vocal tones to more practical use. After hearing similar sentiments expressed to her by friends with regards to her comforting and accomplished voice - one presumably informed by a litany of British folk greats and often drawing comparisons to the likes of Sandy Denny - alongside simultaneous complaints about the chore of putting children to sleep, Jain set about creating a collection of songs that effectively act as an eight part lullaby.
Judging from the opening twinkles of 'What A Big Wide World', said collection, Until Light of Morning , does in fact seem a fairly natural transition for Jain. Even when softly cooing the child-friendly tales of "cuddly bears" and complimentary dialogue between the moon and the stars, these songs sound like the kind of gems she was always meant to create, her gentle tones almost instantly relaxing and unwinding with each swirling line, maternal and comforting as one could hope.
Backed with warm, subtle instrumentation - piano, glockenspiel and guitar - the album slowly unfurls, peeling back in pace and gradually shedding all clutter and structure as it nears the end, almost walking with you hand and hand until you inevitably drift off. Of course, Jain isn't the first to try her hand at a children’s album - check out They Might Be Giants' No! or Paper Bag Records’ See You On The Moon compilation - but this album works on a number of levels. As a collection of music to lull babies to dreamland, it’s great. Yet enjoyment of this album shoeln't feel limited to this functional idea.
Even at her calmest, on the likes of ‘O, I Love You’ and ‘I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark’, Jain demonstrates a quiet strength that protecst these eight pieces from straying into all-out cheesiness. Certainly there's a definite knack to making such simplistic - at times almost sickeningly nice - lyrics aimed a babies and small children sound honest and heartfelt. ‘I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark’ is particularly touching and could quite easily stand on its own outside this particular set.
That’s not to say this is for everyone, of course. With the exception of the odd track, this is a purpose-built sleep-machine that will no doubt test the patience of the caffeine-raddled and the thrill-seeker. Even then it would be a challenge to resist the charms of the overwhelming cuteness of a song like ‘Falling Asleep’ or the delicately sparse nocturnal ode, ‘The Magic Star’. It makes for some beautifully interesting listening, if perhaps essential only for insomniacs.