Monday, June 23, 2014

Judith Owen (with Leland Sklar) Live at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR, June 5, 2014

Welsh singer-songwriter, Judith Owen, Harry Shearer's wife since 1993, played a free, ninety minute concert at a small Portland, OR venue with a very cool name, Doug Fir Lounge, early in June. Unfortunately, it was only in front of a small crowd of less than fifty people.

Nevertheless, everyone went home satisfied because, as good as her performance was, Owen is quite a hoot on stage. The singer-songwriter has a great sense of humor that kept the audience completely entertained. She talked a lot between songs offering up funny stories and one liners, often at her own expense. She enjoyed kidding around with people in the seats and the pianist even discussed her battle with depression that has plagued her for a long time.

Owen performed most of her new album, Ebb & Flow which is a tribute to the "American Troubadour" music she loves from the 1970s, including Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and particularly James Taylor. She wrote in the liner notes, "I fell in love with those recordings, with that classic sound, & with the consummate sidemen who helped create it." She told the Los Angeles Times of her desire to do something life affirming after her father died in 2012 so she put together this set of twelve songs dedicated to the sounds of that era.

To be authentic Owen asked three of the Laurel Canyon's more famous sidemen, collectively known as "The Section," to help her record the album. Even though they haven't played together in fifteen years bassist Leland Sklar, drummer Russell Kunkel, and axeman Waddy Wachtel all accepted her invitation and they became the core of the band she employed on the sessions.

Much of Ebb & Flow is quite personal and despite her outward lightheartedness her songs are often quite serious. "You're Not Here Anymore," was written about her Father and "I Would Give Anything," is for her Mother who committed suicide when Owen was only in her teens.

In the live setting Owen only brought along Sklar who supported her electric piano. The two were ably assisted by a young percussionist, Pedro Segundo, who played a cardboard box he sat upon for most of the evening.

In addition to playing her own work Owen is known for performing unusual cover versions of songs from the decade she loves so much. Both the album and her show featured a slowed down, keyboard heavy, arrangement of Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime" and Taylor's "Hey Mister, That's Me On The Jukebox." She also played a Jerry Goffin/Carole King oldie that is not on the disc, "It Might As Well Rain Until September" which was a hit for Bobby Vee in 1962.

It was an evening well spent and you couldn't beat the price.

Read more about Owen at her website.

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