SOMEBODY'S CHILD - JUDITH OWEN
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Release Date: 6th May, 2016
Genre: Singer-songwriter, Jazz, Pop, Folk and Americana
Band Members: Leland Sklar (Bass), Waddy Wachtel (Guitar), Russell Kunkel (Drums), Pedro Segundo (Percussion) and Gabriella Swallow (Cello)
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Record Company: Twanky Records
One of the things we love about Welsh pianist and singer-songwriter Judith Owen is her own unique fusion of musical styles. ‘Somebody’s Child’ is the pinnacle of this work, with her pure vocals and piano the focal point. The album contains great vignettes, snapshots and slices of life created from the perspective that we are all “somebody’s child”, parental as well as on so many other levels. This album is written for us and is about all of us. All the things that are so important and really count in this crazy world around us. It's sharp, clever, heartfelt, direct and personal, sometimes serious but often wonderfully witty.
Whereas 2014’s critically-acclaimed ‘Ebb & Flow’ was a personal and very much a love letter to Laurel Canyon, ‘Somebody’s Child’ takes a leap from the confessional to the observational, whilst recruiting the same crème de la crème of Los Angeles session musicians, bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Waddy Wachtel and drummer Russell Kunkel (Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne).......joining them with her British-based musicians including master percussionist Pedro Segundo and sublime cellist Gabriella Swallow to create a new fresh, magical and dynamic sound.
'Somebody's Child' has beautiful instrumentation and arrangements. It's luxuriant and highly crafted. Wonderful string arrangements, basslines and percussion perfectly complementing Judith's rich vocals and piano playing. The album contains 11 self penned songs plus two very popular covers, 'More Than This' and 'Aquarius'. The album was recorded at Neptune Valley Studios in Los Angeles with additional recording at Studio 1 in London.
The album starts with the thought-provoking and heartfelt title track 'Somebody's Child'. The song was inspired by Judith seeing a heavily pregnant homeless girl in Manhattan in the middle of winter walking in a foot of snow. On drugs, barefoot and naked except for two trash bags. She acting very wild and was terrifying. Everyone was avoiding her in the street. Then Judith had a moment of humanity and clarity. "I was crossing the street, with everybody else, trying to avoid her, when I thought, “That’s somebody’s child and if my life had been different, that could have been me.....or any of us! We’re all so dehumanized and this whole record is about reconnecting with our humanity, really seeing what’s around us, discarding, even if it is just for a moment, our constant state of denial.” The song encourages us to "Spare a little thought for the down and out. 'Cause it's true if the table were turned and if the deal was different, it might be you". It put me in mind of a comment I once heard from a homeless charity which said "That many people are only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless".
The joys of social media and relationships are explored in the very catchy 'Send Me A Line'. A moody social commentary on people, including herself, 'not being present but overly preoccupied by technology'. "Oh buddy won't you send me a line....I'm dying here"
Love is the the next subject in tender and personal 'Mystery', highlighting the difficulties of finding love and the curious mystery of how people stay together. "They say love’s a mystery and we think about it all the time. You can’t ever force it. It’s just something that you’ll find. ’Cause for all your working, it’s never where you thought it would be…….It takes patience, it takes time”. 'Tell All Your Children' is a very topical and poignant song about world events, self examination and then our action. It has dreamy vocals, relaxed bluesy guitar lines and subtle Motown backing vocals. "Time is running out... Unless we make a change, unless we make a start. We’ll let’s start by looking in the mirror. ‘Cause inside we are all the same". 'We Give In' is inspired by pointless celebrities like Kim Kardashian and many others. It has some great lyrics ‘Now summer’s hot, but she spends it in the city. Triple jobs for slobs, who don’t know much of anything."
Judith's is such a wonderful songwriter at this is showcased in the beautiful and heartfelt 'No More Goodbyes' a song written for her father. It has a lovely string arrangement by Susie Winkworth and almost a Sting feel to it. 'Arianne' is encouraged to make changes in her life. She has a situation which makes her feel like she is in prison. But in reality she is free and she just needs to have courage and change the cycle of her life and "break the chains that bind us". Next up is a wonderful and smooth cover of Roxy Music's 'More Than This' written by Bryan Ferry. It was released as the first single from their final album, 'Avalon'. The song was recorded on Bryan Ferry’s piano in the London studio. Her version is endorsed by Mr. Ferry himself, whom she opened for in 2015. The bluesy and jazzy love song 'That's Why I Love My Baby' written for her husband Harry, is classic Judith, full of feeling and great arrangements. Judith’s husband actor Harry Shearer, joins her to play the upright bass on the track. 'I Know Why The Sun Shines' has a classic retro smokey feel with a gospel chorus and backing vocals, it also unashamedly borrows from Sergei Rachmaninoff. Another very tender song is the lovely 'Josephine', a song for the lost and lonely.
The second cover on the album is Grammy award winning 'Aquarius' by James Rado and Gerome Radni with music from Galt MacDermott, originally written for the 1967 musical 'Hair'. The lyrics of this song were based on the astrological belief that the world would soon be entering the "Age of Aquarius", an age of love, light, and humanity, unlike the current "Age of Pisces". The exact circumstances for the change are "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars." This change was presumed to occur at the end of the 20th century. The album closes with the classic and personal 'The Rain Is Gonna Fall' a song which encourages everyone to go out and live your life without regrets. "'Cause no one moves on by looking backwards. Things might end but others begin well. There's no need to do your rain dance. Just give in......and live"