The Iona singer is an organic storyteller putting scripture into song.

Label: johoggmusic
Time:  6 tracks / 25 minutes

Joanne Hogg is best known for her keyboards and lead vocals with Celtic-jazz-prog-folkies Iona, but this EP is a very different affair. Here she has a more organic singer-songwriter vibe, as she recounts episodes from the bible and brings out some implications at the end.

‘MAP’ stands for ‘Miracles and Parables,’ spelt out here as the miracles of salvation (the Samaritan Woman), physical healing (Naaman) and food multiplication, together with two parables: the Lost Son and the Good Samaritan. ‘Map’ takes on a more literal meaning at the end, as she bases a song on the Psalm 47 line, “Give me a map so that I may find my way to the place of your presence.”

Hogg’s track titles reveal her approach with these stories: the Samaritan woman’s song is themed and named "Thirst" and, matching it, the story of the mass feeding is called “Hunger.”

As she brings meaning from these stories and parables, the more acoustic sound in this recording brings out the warmth in her voice. There is warmth in her approach, too. In "The General," she addresses Naaman directly, showing understanding for his inner feelings, while still being blunt about his reluctance to take the orders that he normally gives.

I like the concise storytelling in “Thirst:”
“She walks out of town in the heat of the day
 The sun is high and her gaze is low
 She lives in the hours that best hide her shame
 She knows the rules and the town knows her name.”

Iona’s one weakness was creating strong melodies and occasionally that comes to mind here, but this is a largely tuneful collection and if “Hunger” has a melodically nondescript verse, Hogg bookends it with a piano-and-brass motif that takes the end up a notch or two, with guitar soloing briefly above it.

As drummer Terl Bryant and bassist Phil Barker are old bandmates, they are used to working well together - and Barker is on particularly fine form here - but this is the first time that Hogg has sung alongside brass (Graeme Flowers’ flugelhorn and trumpet). It’s a touch that really works. The timbre adds colour without dominating, as brass can sometimes do.

The set finishes with “Constant in my Chaos,” a song of praise that tells how God is “The mystery in the mundane, the colour in my monotone... the truth that sets me free.”

As well as working for personal listening, there could be a place for some of these songs in church, when covering these stories.

Derek Walker