BMG [Release date 04.03.16]
It comes to something when it takes a fifteen year old album – getting its first UK release – to highlight just how sterile and bland the singer songwriter scene has become.
Warnes’ eighth studio album, originally released in 2001, The Well was a project put together with the help of guitarist Doyle Bramhall II – an Americana album before the phrase was coined, featuring her own compositions and songs by Arlo Guthrie, Billy Joel, Allen Toussaint and Tom Waits.
It also marked the end of her solo recording – blocked and then buried by ‘a chaotic time in the industry’, the experience was enough for Warnes to decide to focus on singing on other’s records rather than making her own. It’s to be hoped that she might, one day, revisit that decision, because The Well highlights a very special talent.
A host of some of America’s top musicians feature on a collection of songs that visit rhythm and blues, folk, country, jazz and soul, but with the loving production putting the song and the singer firmly at the centre of a set perfect for late night listening.
In many ways ahead of its time, The Well could easily have been recorded yesterday, such is the timeless nature of the performance. Warnes wrings ever last ounce of emotion out of a vocal performance that is based on subtlety of expression, rather than the power and pyrotechnics than pass for ‘talent’ in today’s American Idol generation.
Musically, The Well may not be everyone’s cup of tea – although there is probably something here for everyone – but Warnes’ delivery puts it beyond reproach. A timeless record, and one to be cherished. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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