Track of the Day: J.S. Ondara “Torch Song” (2019)

“Torch Song” is a melancholic and yearning track from Tales of America, the debut album from singer-songwriter J.S. Ondara. It is a track and indeed an album firmly rooted in the worlds of Americana and folk music, with Ondara citing Bob Dylan, amongst others, as an influence, but there’s something a twist to the tale. 

Although, now based in Minneapolis, Ondara grew up in Nairobi in Kenya listening to Alternative rock, before eventually discovering Dylan via Guns N’ Roses. The full story of his journey from Nairobi to Minnesota is detailed quite comprehensively and with great charm and wit on his website. 

The album, Tales of America, offers an interesting take on the age old idea of the ‘American Dream’. The album offers, through song, another strain to that classic myth of America – a land of opportunity for an immigrant who is seeking a new life, and who is willing to work hard for it. It’s a somewhat romantic vision, undoubtedly, but after a listen to the album you’ll notice it’s also one tinged with melancholy and nostalgia too. 

“Torch Song” is a beautiful song that places Ondara’s warm and emotive vocals front and centre. The instrumental is subtle and stripped back, and the inclusion of the gospel-tinged backing vocals at around the two minute mark is a lovely touch. Despite being influenced broadly by Dylan, “Torch Song”, owes a debt to more contemporary performers, and brings to mind the likes of The Lumineers, Ray LaMontagne and Dylan LeBlanc. 

“Torch Song” and Ondara’s debut album Tales of America are available now. You can keep up to date with J.S. Ondara via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Header Photo by Josh Cheuse (Sourced from artist’s Official Site)

Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.