Judith Owen,
(Courgette, 2006)

Welsh songstress Judith Owen has recently been heard providing harmony vocals on Richard Thompson's Old Kit Bag album, as well as accompanying Thompson on his recent "1000 Years of Popular Music" tour and recording, where Judith takes a central role in a few of the numbers and shows her vocal prowess to stunning effect. On Here her vocals are, sensibly, at the forefront of the mix with well-measured, understated instrumental accompaniment never threatening to steal the show or detract from the absolute serenity of her voice.

Judith is a remarkable singer and deploys her smoky voice like a beautifully honed instrument. She has a naturally jazzy voice, with a gentle huskiness, and draws immediate comparisons with a young Joni Mitchell; indeed, "Climbing Shoes" sounds almost like it could have been lifted straight from Joni's Hissing of Summer Lawns . Her more tender moments recall a deeper sounding Janis Ian, such as on the sympathetically orchestrated track, "You & the Moon."

It is the title track of Here that opens the album, and one senses that Judith invests more raw emotion in this song than any other. Judith's impassioned performance floods your heart and soul with the most intimate of sentiments right from the first listen. Seemingly an elegy to a former lover, or possibly a lost loved one, "Here" offers just over three divine minutes of flawless affection and reminiscence; "I still miss you, I still wish that you were here."

With "Hand Across the Water" Judith delivers an uplifting, and almost spiritual performance, whilst songs such as "Best Friend" and the sublime "Worship" are peppered with bluesy nuances; a style to which her vocal style most naturally lends itself.

It would be so easy to write this review without need for criticism if it weren't for the questionable inclusion of a cover of the dire 1980s power-ballad, "Eye of the Tiger." It's not that Judith's performance is necessarily bad, but this is just a poor song, and on Here it stands out like a weed amongst a bouquet of perfectly formed roses.

With the exception of this one misjudged inclusion, Here is a soulful and relaxing album, impeccably capturing Judith's accomplished vocal dexterity -- perfect accompaniment for a late night on the sofa and a large glass of red wine!

by Mike Wilson
14 October 2006

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