A Delight made for Moody Evenings
Loaded with raw darkness, redisCOVERed reminds us of Judith Owen’s standing power
Review by Andrew Steel
What do you turn to, two decades and a fair few albums into your career, when looking for inspiration? In the case of Wales’ Judith Owen, you turn back the clock. Her latest, redisCOVERed, harks back to her early days playing nightly four-hour piano sets in the pub, where throwing in the odd classic and radio hit was a sure-fire way to win favour with the punters. The singer-songwriter recalls almost a dozen of them here, from the past and the present, from the ultra-contemporary (a slow, soul recast of Drake’s Hotline Bling) back through the years to the sixties (The Beatles’ Blackbird), delivered with the slim richness and taste of an after-dinner mint.
Owen’s sound has always cleaved towards adult-contemporary and sophisti-pop; she was a tourmate of Bryan Ferry in 2015, when she famously played an acoustic gig for the press in her living room following a late-illness cancellation from the main act at the Royal Albert Hall. Even with her own unifying sonic palate here, the interpretative nature of a covers album that runs the gamut across multiple genres obviously yields differing results. Some don’t fly as well as hoped; her scat-smoke rendition of Soundgarden’s grunge anthem Black Hole Sun may carry some poignancy in the wake of Chris Cornell’s passing but otherwise rushes by, robbing itself of the heavy-emotion heart of the original. Better is an after-hours sultry run through Donna Summer’s sexed-up disco classic Hot Stuff; it unfurls itself with the flourishes of a fan dancer, lowly intoxicating and a teasing reminder of its singer’s standing power. Stronger even is a stunning slow-burn take on Joni Mitchell’s Cherokee Louise; stately and statuesque, yet loaded with a raw darkness. On the whole, Owen hits the mark; as twilight-hour songcraft goes, it is made for the moody evenings.