The shift in a musician’s recording identity can be significant, but only occasionally does it involve an alias in which a new spirit and a new story are embodied. John Fahey and Blind Joe Death were two sides of the same coin occupied by a then-young student of blues and American folk forms (Blind Joe Death became part of Fahey’s many-stranded mythology). As composer Edward Larry Gordon’s path became more spiritually clear and focused, he took on the name Laaraji.
The “character album” was kind of sunk the second Garth Brooks first appeared in public as Chris Gaines. The massively successful country pop star wanted to step out in a new direction, so he adopted the persona of an Australian rock singer struggling with stardom. While few will look back fondly at the Gaines music itself, it’s actually not as bad as the hullabaloo surrounding its release would suggest.
Jackie Lynn is an alter ego of Chicago-based singer/songwriter Haley Fohr, who is best known for her experimental indie-folk project Circuit des Yeux. The self-titled album revolves around a character named Jackie Lynn, who was born in Franklin, Tennessee in 1990. In 2010, she took a Greyhound bus to Chicago where she met an individual referred to as Tom Strong, and the two allegedly began a multi-million-dollar cocaine business.
Circuit des Yeux's Haley Fohr does a remarkable job of telling a powerful story in a short amount of time. In just 21 minutes and change, Fohr's self-titled debut as Jackie Lynn is a concise epistolary narration of the rise and abrupt fall of a country girl turned drug kingpin in Chicago. Fohr's signature contralto moan takes on a fatalistic tone as she transforms herself into the album's tragic figure here.
Haley Fohr is a dramatic storyteller. The music she makes as Circuit Des Yeux channels complex narratives and emotions, fueled by slow-burning arrangements and her dark, evocative voice. With all the scenes and characters she conjures, taking on a new persona–especially one with an intensely detailed backstory–could be overkill. Why add another layer to a musician who already has so many? Fohr’s new solo project, Jackie Lynn, answers that question pretty clearly.
An elaborate backstory underpins this album. Jackie Lynn is a self-titled debut album, though Jackie Lynn is a character created by Haley Fohr, who has heretofore recorded under the name Circuit des Yeux, an experimental beyond-indie band. If you like first-person lyrics that directly reveal emotions or life details of the singer, you won’t find that here.
A lot of Haley Fohr’s musical life has happened under the name Circuit des Yeux. Since she was a teenager, Ms. Fohr, now 27, has been a kind of one-woman post-cabaret movement, using finger-picked folk-guitar mesmerization, synthesizer ripples, aggressive drone chords and a severe, semi-operatic low voice. She’s hard to contain, and does something that you can’t quite get anywhere else.