Reviewed by Derek Udensi, Fri., June 14, 2019
"They treat me mean/ But I know that this creation keeps my heart beating," sang Jackie Venson on 2016 track "One Step Forward." The 29-year-old Austin native made her name behind fleet-fingered blues/rock/R&B wizardry, but latest studio LP Joy showcases remarkable songwriting capacity. Constantly advancing, she sounds refreshingly raw on her most polished creation to date, its sprawling 20 tracks ranging far and wide in sound and vision while all remaining in the strike zone of Venson's infectious musical uplift. "Witchcraft" features hypnotic zapping complete with robot ad-libs, but it flows perfectly unto itself. As such, this journey to find happiness after love from others proves fleeting still counts shredding as its backbone. On the seven-minute "Back to Earth," gentle strums build momentum as each cymbal tap is pronounced before ceding to the author's solo break. Triumphant closer "When It's Right" showcases increased lyrical chops as Venson confidently belts, "I know who I am and I know what I'm worth/ I won't compromise," after starting off the tune behind keys fit for church. Even though she's the first black woman to win Best Guitar at this year's Austin Music Awards, calling her "Austin's Best Guitarist" feels patronizing in relation to the talent bursting from Joy. Jackie Venson could hold her own in any city.