If Evergreen Christmas is the sound of someone waxing lyrical from inside a well-established, safe and settled relationship, Not In Vain narrates those early, often faltering, steps of the dawn of a new relationship…or perhaps the opening chapter of the one found in previous songs such as Angel Woman. Again, acoustic pop is the chosen musical vehicle but this time there is an air of uncertainty laced through the song, unresolved questions, hoped for outcomes and a reassurance that the efforts are worth pursuing, that the narrator is not just being played. But that is the nature of relationships and it is such frisson and frictions, such thrills of the chase that make the end result, if indeed you get the result that you are hoping for, all the more enjoyable.
Again, there is a deft blend of guitars forming the perfect platform for the lyrics to be able to dance on, acoustic chord rigidity shot through with gentle jazz-blues motifs and highlighted by intricate, classical cascades and concise fret-board meanderings.
Not In Vain is the perfect example of serving the song, as are all of JD’s songs. Many musicians would keep adding layer after layer of instrumentation in the misconception that more is always better, but here it is the simplicity of the composition, coupled with the dexterity of the guitar work, which makes things work so well here. Who needs distracting, clattering drums, clutter-some lead breaks, thumping bass-lines and banks of electronic ephemera when all you need is a good core idea and the sense to employ only what you need to get the message across?
And when you are brave enough to allow yourself such freedom, it is the space around the music which enables each instrument and every sonic move to have its moment in the sun, to find separation, its own platform, rather than find itself fighting to be heard.
You know the phrase, less is more? Well, that.