Judith Owen: Happy This Way (Courgette)

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Judith Owen: My Father's Voice
Judith Owen: Happy This Way (Courgette)

For Jamie Cullum to call Owen "the female Randy Newman" only tells you wee Jamie needs to be more familiar with Randy.

But singer-pianist Owen (married to Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls aka Harry Shearer) does pen a good tune and weaves her literate lyrics through it in way which only the best can -- and the best like Cassandra Wilson, Richard Thompson (with whom she tours) and Julia Fordham turn up to help out as this Welsh singer, now living in LA, reflects on Britain and her family and friends from a distance.

She describes it as a love letter to her homeland but does sidestep sentiment (mostly) and recalls a young Joni Mitchell in many ways, although one comfortable in a cabaret-club.

She writes a gentle speak-sing tribute to Nick Drake (with Richard Thompson on vocals) and another to the comfort she found in her father's voice (he was a classical singer), but also nails dramatic piece about an embittered woman who offers sympathy to everyone and now demands some for herself.

This is about her fifth album and is far from straight-ahead folk-jazz (but is in that vicinity) and might best appeal to those who don't find Rufus Wainwright too over the top, or those who have Patricia Barber, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Cassandra Wilson in their collections.

On Painting by Numbers she seems closer to the Britrock of the 90s and the final track with Wilson is remix by Quantic which suggests Judith Owen isn't one to be easily pigeonholed.

Very interesting all round.

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