From the intimate to the universal, sympathy reigns supreme on Welsh singer’s most emotional
Compassion: that’s what it’s all about for Judith Owen now. A nocturnal affair of sorts as the album’s artwork suggests, her new compositions find feelings toned down, or even suppressed, to a sizzling point from the beginning, once the title track outlines Owen’s amazing ability to connect external events, a testament to the artist’s observational talents, to her inner world – to the extent where the listener is genuinely moved. This is also the way the walls of a chamber the record creates by wrapping Judith’s piano into strings move to open an urban vista where solitude is a means of imagination and a method of reaching out, and not for nothing there’s a languidly elegant cover of “Aquarius” amid the singer’s originals, because everything that’s inside can, and possibly should, be made external if catharsis is an ultimate goal.
Here’s the reason why the infectious, and immensely deep, “Tell All Your Children” doesn’t resort to edifying stanzas – what with Leland Sklar’s bass and Russell Kunkel’s drums setting it in motion – but is a tuneful concern about what’s going on outside, while Waddy Wachtel’s guitar twang and wordless vocal give the lyrics great gravitas. With the playful “That’s Why I Love My Baby” a moment when momentum is fully gained, a reggae undercurrent of “Send Me A Line” propels the pieces towards a two-way trip to expand Owen’s microcosm and bring back her reflections which bounce off the people close to Judith. She may deliver a heartfelt rendition of touring partner Bryan Ferry’s “More Than This” to turn a solipsistic view inside out and show how futile self-focusing is, yet “No More Goodbyes” has placed elegy in the core of thankfulness to a great effect, losing tunnel vision for a wider perspective, even style-wise.
Whereas bossa nova and jazz arrangements shape her melodies, Judith’s songwriting still bears a British imprint, New World bonus “Row & Row” being a Blighty-born vaudeville pastiche, the unhurriedly “The Rain Is Gonna Fall” and “Know Why The Sun Shines” channel the great American songbook and stress the grace of Owen’s manner. Having straddled the pond, she’s a star in that nocturnal affair now, but her live performances make Judith Owen shine brighter than on record: it’s there that her compassion truly comes to life.