Judith Owen - Happy This Way - Washington Post
08 June 2007Washington Post
Although fans on both sides of the Atlantic have grown accustomed to the surprising array of sounds that Welsh-born vocalist-keyboardist Judith Owen brings to her albums, that doesn't make listening to them any less enjoyable. Laced with Celtic, jazz and both contemporary and chamber pop influences, "Happy This Way" is the latest reminder of Owen's rare talent for effortlessly crossing genres.
Of course, you may find yourself wishing now and then that Owen devoted more time to exploring one of the album's many facets, whether it's the Celtic air-evoking "Conway Bay" or the jazzbo commentary on modern life "Cool Life" or the Joni Mitchell-esque piano musing "Carry." But even if you prefer a certain mood or groove, Owen's alluring vocals are a constant, the gift that keeps on giving.
Her songs often point to family or home or, in the case of "Nicholas Drake," an early and lasting musical influence. In fact, memories of the late British singer-songwriter Nick Drake inspire a lament that surfaces early on, quietly arranged for piano and guitar, with Richard Thompson contributing vocal harmonies. "Your gift was your curse / Your best through the worst / You were one in a million / A poet unheard." "Happy This Way," however, is more about gratitude than loss.
Owen pays tribute to her parents along the way and benefits from a lineup that includes not only Thompson but singers Julia Fordham, Cassandra Wilson and Ian Shaw.
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