Judith Owen – Ebb and Flow (2014)

Clearly Judith Owen has read the book on making a perfect jazz/pop album. Great original songs? Check. A few tasty and reimagined covers? Check. Great vocals? Check. Great players? Check. While Owen makes it seem easy, why is she one of the few people producing gem after gem?

Ebb and Flow, her 2014 release co-produced by Owen with studio ace David Z, builds on the American Troubadour tradition forged by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Carole King yet infuses tasteful touches of jazz not unlike Diana Krall.

A big chunk of the album’s audio success lies squarely on the back of Judith Owen’s vivid and expressive original compositions. The lead-off track, “Train Out Of Hollywood” harkens back in style to mid-seventies era Micthell. It tells the convincing story of success and they problems which come with it. “I Would Give Anything” continues in the same vain yet through the excellent vocal and sensitive piano touch, Webb conveys the hurt and loneliness of a lonely traveler. “Under Your Door” similarly touches on life’s rocky road. “About Love” relies on Owen’s expressive staccato phrasing and vocal support by Carmen Carter and Steve Nicks vocalist Lori Perry.

Owen’s live shows are an adventurous affair, full of humor and great stories. “I’ve Never Been To Texas” brings out some of those elements while not abandoning the emotional thread already established in Ebb and Flow. “Sweet Feet” relies primarily on Judith Owen’s formidable vocal and piano chops; however, the songs swings as if it’s caught in a gentle California breeze.

Owen also reimagines the old Raymond Dorset tune, “In the Summertime,” and reinterprets James Taylor’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox.” These songs, like the originals, are played with heart and should by the wonderful rhythm section of Russell Kunkel on drums, Leland Sklar on bass and Waddy Wachtel on guitar. Their subtle expressiveness adds magic to already magical songs. Percussionist Pedro Segundo also adds understated and elegant spice to the musical gumbo.

Judith Owen’s Ebb and Flow hasn’t left my record player, and will surely make my best of 2014 list.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.