tue 21/05/2019

CD: Judith Owen - redisCOVERed | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Judith Owen - redisCOVERed

CD: Judith Owen - redisCOVERed

Admirably improbable set of cover versions is only partly successful

Hair here

When a 49-year-old Welsh jazz’n’folk singer decides to make it her business to cover songs ranging from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, most people’s immediate reaction would be to advise her to leave well alone. I’d be with them. However, despite some real no-no’s contained in Judith Owen’s new album, there’s also fun to be had.

Things do not start well for, despite Owen’s best efforts, her plaintive, sparse piano cover of Drake’s bootycall anthem “Hotline Bling”, while a brave idea (suggested by her husband, the actor-comedian Harry Shearer) does not come off. Somehow the colloquial lyrics sound slightly ludicrous enunciated in such a serious balladic manner. Much the same thing happens when she rethinks “Summer Nights” from Grease in a similar vein, with added strings, although she fares better with Deep Purple’s riff-monster “Smoke on the Water” which develops into a half-jokey brushed drum shuffle.

Fortunately, there are songs on board that partly save the day. Ed Sheeran’s ubiquitous “Shape of You” is given cheeky new life as a sassy Meghan Trainor-style bouncer; “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, a song that’s now nearly 90 years old, is indestructible in its gorgeousness and Owen inhabits it well; her cha-cha-infused take on Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” is a solid frolic. Perhaps best of all is the most unlikely take on Soundgarden’s apocalyptic crossover hit “Black Hole Sun” that you will ever hear.

Owen has had an unaffected, unpretentious 20-plus-year career, working alongside everyone from Bryan Ferry to Richard Thompson, putting out numerous albums. Backed by a virtuoso rhythm section on redicCOVERed, you can hear that she’s having a good time. It’s a purposefully divisive set  always better than being bland, after all  and some will embrace her incongruous choices, but this writer could only get behind about a third of it.

Below: watch Judith Owen play a very sassy version of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" live in New Orleans

Best is the most unlikely take on Soundgarden’s apocalyptic crossover hit 'Black Hole Sun' that you will ever hear


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters