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Judith Owen


Country of origin:

Wales; currently lives in U.S.

Type of music generally:

Jazz-influenced, often torchy, piano-based pop

Status:

Most recent release, Somebody's Child (2016/7)

See also:

Judith Owen's site

Wikipedia's entry on Judith Owen

Comparisons:

It seems to mean something that I can't think of any comparisons and can't find any on the web either. She does share things in common with Charlotte Martin and her good friend Julia Fordham. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional co-written and covers

General comments:

If you saw Richard Thompson's "1000 Years of Popular Music" tour, you experienced Judith's magical vocals; she also has several solo albums out. If you like a smooth, jazzy but eclectic sound (she does a great cover of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water"!) Very much worth checking out. (trow@interbridge.com)

Judith Owen, who has played piano and sung on Julia Fordham's albums (among others) is a talented jazz-flavored pop/folk piano-based singer-songwriter in her own right. More than a few of her songs deal with loss and remembrance (of her home country and her mother). (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

Twelve Arrows; Here is also a good place to start. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recordings:


Emotions on a Postcard

Release info:

1996—Dog on the Bed Music

Availability:

See Judith Owen's site

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen

Guest artists:

Larry Klein—bass on "I've Never Been to Texas"
Others not listed

Produced by:

Julie Last

Comments:

The roots of all of Judith's subsequent albums can be heard on this album, a polished debut and an excellent album in its own right. There's her voice, which I loved the first moment I heard it, the jazz-influenced piano, the way she can quiet down into a hushed sort of singing and come soaring back. It's all there. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Limited Edition

Release info:

2000—Dog on the Bed Music—824877111221

Availability:

See CD Baby

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen

Guest artists:

Not listed

Produced by:

Clif Magness and Glen Ballard

Comments:

This is the least jazzy of Judith's albums, or perhaps the most subtly so. Only "Who's That Girl" (NOT the Madonna song) has her trademark torch-jazz stylings. No matter. She proves she can do straight pop/rock well, and this album includes some of her best belt-it-out 'rock' songs like "Let's Hear It for Love," as well as beautiful quieter numbers like "I Promise You."
     Judith no longer lists this album on her website, probably because most of it has been retooled and re-released on Mopping Up Karma. Though the versions on the two albums are pretty similar, Limited Edition is still worth picking up, partly for the three songs not on Mopping Up Karma and to hear the songs in a different order. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Twelve Arrows

Release info:

2003—Dog on the Bed Music

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Sean Hurley—double bass
Harry Shearer—vocals (1)
Julia Fordham—vocals (3)

Produced by:

Judith Owen & John Fischbach (1, 2, 4); Lou Carnevale (5, 6)

Comments:

Twelve Arrows shows off Judith's impressive vocal and stylistic range. There's the campy fun of "Walking the Dog," beautiful ballads, a heartbreaking duet with Richard Thompson (there's also a duet with Julia Fordham, but though I love their voices together, I'm not that big on the song). The album covers jazz and pop, heartbreak and joy. This is Judith Owen at her finest. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Christmas in July

Release info:

2004— Courgette Records—CGT-30011-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

Sean Hurley—bass
Herman Matthews—drums
Julia Fordham—vocals (3)
Jeff Young—Hammond organ
Mauricio Fritz Lewack—percussion
Richard Thompson—guitar, vocals (12)

Produced by:

Judith Owen & Robin Danar

Comments:

This EP manages to pack fun (a delightfully jazzy cover of "Christmas with the Devil"); reflection (the originals "Dancing Tree" and "My Father's Voice," both of which recall Judith's childhood); and religion into 25 minutes. I don't really care for her version of "The Christmas Song," but it's a credible rendition and it goes with the title (experiencing Christmas in sunny LA, which is where, apparently, Mel Torme wrote the song). As for the traditionals, there's an upbeat and jazzy "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and the highlight, an exquisite "Silent Night" duet with Julia Fordham. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Here

Release info:

2006—Courgette Records—CGT-30015-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—piano, accordion, vocals, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Sean Hurley—double bass
Lenny Castro—drums, percussion
Grant Mitchell—string arrangements and performance (1, 2, 4, 6); vibes, strings, sitar, Indian percussion (5); B3 organ, harmonium (7)
Mike Bogart—trumpet
k.d. lang—backing vocals (4)
Quinn—drums (5, 8)
Michael Skinkus—additional percussion (8)
The Seattle Players—orchestra (9)
Hummie Mann—orchestra conductor (9); orchestral arrangement (9)

Produced by:

John Fischbach & Judith Owen

Comments:

Here was the second album of Judith's that I heard and the first that I loved all the way through. It's full of slower, elegant ballads, and I think it's a great introduction to her work. The jazz influences are definitely present, but less prominent (more so on her fantastic cover of "Eye of the Tiger"). The title track is especially beautiful and poignant, both musically and lyrically, about "how the hard things in life make us the people we are." It's clearly related to her mother's suicide, although that's not directly mentioned. "I Go to Sleep" is another great cover, and some of the originals (particularly "Hand Across the Water" are among her best work. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Happy This Way

Release info:

2007—Courgette Records—CGT-30017-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—piano, Hammond B3, vocals, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Sean Hurley—double bass, electric bass
Seattle Strings—orchestra (1)
Hummie Mann—orchestra conductor (1); orchestral arrangement (1)
Richard Thompson—electric guitars; acoustic guitar; guest vocal (3)
Luis Conte—drums, percussion, congas
Air-Edel Strings—orchestra (4, 10)
Laura Melhuish—orchestra leader (4, 10)
Richard Watkins—principal French horn (4, 10)
Jeremy Holland-Smith—orchestra conductor (4, 10); orchestral arrangements (4, 10)
Lenny Castro—congas, percussion
Grant Mitchell—organ; accordion; bodhran; djembe; extra instruments (7); additional arrangements (7, 8)
Ian Shaw—guest vocal (5)
Julia Fordham—guest vocal (6)
The Weigel Quartet—strings (9)
Jay Weigel—string conductor (9); quartet arrangement (9)
Cassandra Wilson—guest vocal (12)

Produced by:

John Fischbach & Judith Owen; additional production (12) by Will Holland

Comments:

Another gorgeous album showcasing her range of styles. There are quieter songs that are just stunning in beauty ("Conway Bay", "Nicholas Drake", "My Father's Voice"), poppy songs ("Painting by Numbers", "Happy This Way"), and jazzier numbers that remind me of her work on Twelve Arrows ("Sympathy", "We're Only Human"). "Carry" is another great song; I love Judith's and Julia Fordham's voices together. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Mopping Up Karma

Release info:

2008—Courgette Records—CGT-30017-2 digital release; 2009 digipak release

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—piano, vocals, background vocals, keyboards

Guest artists:

Clifton Magness—bass, guitars, loop programming
Glen Ballard—bass, guitar, loop programming on "Creatures of Habit" and "Let's Hear It for Love"
Josh Freeze—drums
Matt Chamberlin—drums
Benmont Tench—B3 organ
Patrick Warren—chamberlin
Julia Fordham—background vocals on "Extraordinary"
David Campell—orchestral arrangements, conductor

Produced by:

Clifton Magness; Glen Ballard ("Creatures of Habit" and "Let's Hear It for Love"); additional production by John Fischbach and Judith Owen

Comments:

These songs were retooled from sessions for a previous album begun in 1998. Indeed, almost all appear on Limited Edition; the title comes from a lyric in "Who's That Girl," which is one of the songs on both albums. Another, "Extraordinary" is a re-titled and reworded version of "He's Ordinary." My ears aren't subtle enough to pick up most of the differences in the two albums, but I think Mopping Up Karma is worth getting. The two additional tracks, "Ruby Red Lips" and "Inside You" are both great. And unlike many albums that start well and peter out, Mopping Up Karma is strong throughout and builds to a climax. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Some Kind of Comfort

Release info:

2012—Courgette Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Comments:

It's not a bad album; it's pleasant. But it doesn't ever grab me—through catchy melodies, heart-rending lyrics or stunning vocal turns of phrase, all of which Judith is more than capable of. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Ebb & Flow

Release info:

2014—Twanky Records—TWR00130

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Judith Owen is back in top form on this album. Guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, who played together as the Section on many 70s records, back up Judith here, and the album has a relaxed vibe. Half the songs are new; there are also two covers ("Hey Mister, That's Me Up on the Jukebox" and "In the Summertime") and four recordings of previously released songs from her early albums ("I've Never Been to Texas," the best song off her debut; "Train Out of Hollywood" from her third album; and "You're Not Here Anymore" and "Some Arrows Go in Deep," both from her second album. The former was written about her father, who died before Ebb & Flow's recording; the latter has been reinvented with a Latin feel.). The lyrics focus on love and loss (the song "I Would Give Anything" is about Judith's deceased mother), and there really is an ebb and flow to the emotions of it all, one that is wonderful to experience again and again. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Somebody's Child

Release info:

2016/7—Twanky Records—TWR 00154

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Judith Owen—vocals, piano, keyboards

Guest artists:

Tom Pigott Smith—violin (1, 6, 13)
Rakhi Singh—violin (1, 6, 13)
Meghan Cassidy—viola (1, 6, 13)
Gabriella Swallow—cello (1-3, 6, 13, 14, 15)
Susie Winkworth—string arrangement (1, 6, 13)
Leland Sklar—bass (2-8, 10-15)
Pedro Segundo—percussion (2-8, 10, 12-15); drums (9)
Waddy Wachtel—acoustic guitar (3, 9); guitar(s) (4, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15)
Russell Kunkel—drums (4, 8, 12, 14, 15)
Carmen Carter, Jean McClain—background vocals (4, 10)
Alice Russell—background vocals (4)
Tom Scott—saxophones (5); flute (9); baritone saxophone (14)
Greg Leisz—steel guitar (6)
Paul Beard—Wurlitzer piano (8, 12); Farfisa organ (12)
Harry Shearer—upright bass (9)
Steve Lee—steel guitar (11)
Richard Dodd—cello (14)

Produced by:

Judith Owen; co-producers David Bianco and Steve Lee

Comments:

This may be Judith Owen's best album ever. It's all here—beautiful vocals, upbeat songs and introspection, thoughtful stories, great backing band. It's jazzier than some of her recent work, but in a way that's accessible to, and enjoyable by, non-jazz aficionados like me. This may sound like the gushing of an uncritical fan, but in truth I've found many of her previous albums a bit uneven. I haven't loved everything she's ever done, but I love everything she's done on this album. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2017-10-11 22:54:38.
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