A Guidepost Report
Firebrand singer-songwriter and pianist JUDTIH OWEN is riding the crest of a wondrous wave. Critics adored her previous album “Somebody’s Child.” The Sunday Times UK chose it as one of the best records of 2016 and Analog Planet said it “sparkles with Owen’s witty energy.”
Her live performances, whether as a headliner or as the handpicked opening act for Bryan Ferry’s recent tours of Europe and North America, have been wowing listeners and gaining fans everywhere. Fellow artist Jackson Browne said that onstage she’s “a masterclass on how a show should be done.”
So with all that acclamation, why turn to the music of others for her latest album “redisCOVERed”? Owen says: “Over the years, so many people, whether [they’re like film producer] Nick Wechsler or audience members who hear the covers I’ve done, have wondered why I don’t make a collection of these things that are so unique and unusual?”
“RedisCOVERed” answers all those questions. As she has done since her earliest days plunking out the music of Mozart and Debussy on the family piano and, later, playing hours on end in piano bars granting customer requests, Owen makes these songs her own. She molds the familiar melodies and lyrics of contemporary pop hits and old-time favorites to her unmistakable voice and style.
“I don’t perform or sing music unless it means something to me,” Owen says. “I have to make the songs matter to me, to have my truth in them.”
Look within her “redisCOVERed” shows and you’ll see that even the seemingly silliest selection has a big piece of Owen’s heart in it. In “redisCOVERed” she pays loving homage to one of her biggest influences, Joni Mitchell, recording the legendary “Cherokee Louise” and “Ladies Man.” They’re somewhat surprising choices, as they come from Mitchell’s post-’70s heyday when her commercial star had faded somewhat.
“There’s a line in ‘Ladies Man’ where she sings, ‘Why do you keep trying to make a man out of me?’” Owen explains. “And I really relate to that because when I met Joni, I realized I knew exactly what she was talking about. . . She does not lead with her sexuality. She leads with her musicianship and her abilities. The most important thing is to be respected on stage and in the studio. Yet, there are times when I’ve wished that the person I was working with could perhaps notice that I was a woman. She nailed it in that one line and it really touched me.”
Owen has parallel personal experiences in “Black Hole Sun”.
Her biggest challenge, though, was seeing herself within the very modern hip-hop of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
“I said to Harry [Shearer, her husband], ‘Choose the most extreme thing; something contemporary that you would think I could not relate to,’” she confesses. “But of course I can because I’ve been in that place where I was constantly waiting for the phone call from the guy who would call me only when there was no one better around. That song became more of a torch song. That’s absolutely a woman’s song if ever there was one.”
Owen’s arrangements breathe fresh life into these familiar songs. In “redisCOVERed” she has surrounded herself with some sharp musical talent. She’s joined by legendary bassist Leland Sklar (James Taylor, Carole King, Leonard Cohen) and master percussionist Pedro Segundo, both key members of Judith’s live band.
You’ll also find contributions from the likes of Paul Beard (Bryan Ferry, James Blunt); George Shelby (Phil Collins, Bette Midler); Snarky Puppy member Michael ‘Maz’ Maher; Grammy winning jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton; her dazzling London string players, longtime cellist collaborator Gabriella Swallow and violinist Lizzie Ball (Nigel Kennedy, Jeff Beck).
Most importantly, what every track on “redisCOVERed” shows is that what we bring to a song that we love is what ultimately defines its truth. And this is true whether it’s a pop chestnut from Grease (“Summer Nights”), a modern chart hit (Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” or Justin Timberlake “Can’t Stop The Feeling”), an icon (the Beatles’ “Blackbird” or Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”) or evergreen 70s dancefloor classics (Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” or Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”).
Says Owen: “A song means so many different things to different people, and they’re all true. It’s what it means to you that matters.”
Finally she says that through it all “I will continue to live by my family motto: Ego Non Karaoke – ‘I don’t do karaoke.’”
The lady doesn’t just sing along a music video. She pours herself into every song she sings.
Source: Robert Ham and Twanky Records
RedisCOVERed CONCERT IN MADRID
Tuesday 23 October 2018, 21.00 h.
Sala Clamores, Calle de Alburquerque, 14, 28010 Madrid
Phone: 914 45 54 80
Preconcert: €12€ / At Clamores ticket window: €15