The new album features breathtakingly new reinterpretations of songs by the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Soundgarden, Justin Timberlake and more
Firebrand singer-songwriter and pianist Judith Owen has always imbued her original songs with keen intelligence, acerbic wit and bracing poignancy. On her wonderfully engaging new album, redisCOVERed, released on May 25th on Twanky Records, the Welsh-born musician sets out on a different kind of artistic journey, channeling her wildly idiosyncratic and prodigious skills on a remarkably diverse set of cover tunes, and in the process she leaves her own individual identity on each one.
“Over the years, so many people, whether it be [film producer] Nick Wechsler or audience members who hear the covers I’ve done, have always had the question, ‘Why don’t you make a collection of these things because they’re so unique and unusual?’” Owen says. “And I had to really ask myself why I do these covers and why they bring me so much pleasure.”
The answers are found throughout redisCOVERed. Owen’s choice of material – a pop chestnut from Grease (“Summer Nights”), modern chart hits (Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”), classic rock staples (the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”), and ‘70s dance floor evergreens (Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff,” Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”) – exemplifies the spirit of a relentlessly daring and inquisitive artist, one who also, it just so happens, has a pretty mega record collection.
But covering songs means little if you’re not breathing new life into them, and as Owen puts it, “I don’t do karaoke. I don’t perform or sing music unless it means something to me. I knew I had to make these songs matter to me, to have my truth in them.”
Sometimes connections came naturally, as was the case with a pair of Joni Mitchell gems, “Cherokee Louise” and “Ladies’ Man.” Owen was especially struck by a line in the latter song: “Why do you keep trying to make a man out of me?” “I really relate to that because when I met Joni, I realized I knew exactly what she was talking about,” she says. “She is someone who is one of the guys. She does not lead with her sexuality. She leads with her musicianship and her abilities…. She nailed it in that one line and it really touched me.”
Owen had a similar response to Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and her mission was to pay tribute to the late Chris Cornell and the message she found within the song. “When I heard it, I thought, ‘This is the best song about depression and being in the darkness that I’ve ever heard,’” she observes. But rather than try to out-grunge a grunge anthem, Owen went a different route, bringing out what she calls a “pompous kind of perkiness to it – which is how I feel when I have my game face on. Like most people who struggle with the ‘black dog,’ they have their daytime face that they go out with so you won’t see what’s going on inside. I liked the idea of doing this almost skipping, ‘Take Five’ version of it, which belies the words.”
Her biggest test on redisCOVERed, however, came from a request she made to her husband, actor Harry Shearer, to “choose the more extreme thing, something contemporary that you would think I couldn’t relate to.” The result is a fully immersive torch song rendering of Drake’s hip-hop jam “Hotline Bling.” Owen clicked with the lyrics immediately because “I’ve been in that place where I was constantly waiting for the phone call that would come from the guy who would call me only when there was no one better to be around. That’s absolutely a woman’s song if ever there was one.”
Aiding Owen on this musical odyssey is Grammy-winning producer/engineer/mixer David Bianco (Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Meghan Trainor), who collaborated with her on the albums Somebody’s Child and Ebb & Flow, as well as two key members of her live band, the legendary bassist Leland Sklar (James Taylor, Carole King) and master percussionist Pedro Segundo.
There are also contributions from such noted players as Paul Beard (Bryan Ferry, James Blunt), George Shelby (Phil Collins, Bette Midler), Snarky Puppy member Michael ‘Maz’ Maher, Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton, along with Owen’s dazzling London string players: longtime cellist and collaborator Gabriella Swallow, and violinist Lizzie Ball (Nigel Kennedy, Jeff Beck).
Owen’s adventurous re-interpretations of the dozen tracks on RedisCOVERed are as cathartic as they are entertaining, and they reveal as much about her own artistry as they do the original writers. “This is the thing about music,” she stresses. “We always get a different read from the same song. A song means so many different things to different people, and they’re all true. It’s what it means to you that matters.”
Whether as a headliner or as the handpicked opening act for such as Bryan Ferry’s recent tours of Europe and North America, Owen’s live performances have been wowing listeners and gaining fans like fellow artist Jackson Browne, who said of her onstage prowess: “It’s a masterclass on how a show should be done.”
Owen will celebrate the release of RedisCOVERed throughout the spring and summer on the following tour dates: Monday, July 23 – West Hollywood, CA – The Troubadour
Tuesday, July 24 – San Diego, CA – The Music Box
Wednesday, July 25 – Festival of Art – Laguna Beach, CA
Thursday, July 26 – Soho – Santa Barbara, CA
Judith Owen’s RedisCOVERed is available on all formats on her own Twanky Records. For more information, please visit: http://www.judithowen.net/
Everyone knows Bubba Jackson. That’s a fact that can’t be denied. He’s been a part of the blues history in L.A. for decades. He was a disc jockey on KLON radio station for many years. He acts as the Master of Ceremonies for many Southland events. In these parts when you say “the blues” his name immediately comes to mind. He has stamped his name alongside the genre so totally, everyone knows Bubba!
I had a few basic questions for him. He answered then with enough detail so I got a pretty complete picture of his life’s journey.
L.A. Jazz Scene: Where were you born? Tell me about your family.
Bubba Jackson: I was born in Harlem, New York. I had two younger siblings, two older. I was the middle child. My father was not around to help raise us. My mother was “the general” who managed us all. I went to Cardinal Hayes Catholic School in the Bronx. I graduated in 1963. I still wear my class ring.
L.A. Jazz Scene: What did you do after high school?
Bubba Jackson: I was in the Air Force, in Denver, Colorado. I fell in love with the mountains. I planned on being an accountant. A sergeant I knew had jazz records. I walked into the studio and all he had were two mic’s and a turntable. I knew I could talk. So I went back to the bus and decided that I was going to try that in Denver. I had a wife and kids but I was going to try that idea. There was no money in the military.
I met a man who was a door to door salesman. Over two and a half years he taught me how to sell. Nothing had prepared me for being a salesman but he did. The first job I got in Denver was selling time, commercials, in Denver. It was “cold calling” different businesses to get them to advertise on the radio. My mentor was a brilliant salesman. I sold commercials, produced them, with the engineer also helping me.
There was a guy who had a gospel show on the radio. He gave me a job to be on the radio myself, during “drive time. “ I knew nothing about broadcasting but I learned. There were hard times, the radio station was sold, there were riots around the country. It was a hard time.
I got a job recruiting minorities for the police department. A young guy who was in construction came in and I asked him how he passed the test to join the police department. He said , “You pass every test if you want to get in the police department. “ I convinced him to go to school. The Leap Program for minorities helped young people to become professionals. These experiences helped me to grow. Working for the Urban League, the Leap Program in Denver, two TV shows. I grew so fast professionally.
I was working the 2 am to 6 am overnight shift in Denver. A reporter from the Denver Post interviewed me and I got a 3-page spread in the newspaper. Still, I had the idea to leave Denver and I was ready to take a risk.
L.A. Jazz Scene: Is that when you came to California?
Bubba Jackson: I came out here, to California with no real plan. I went to station KKGO. They turned me down; I went for an interview but they didn’t have a slot then. But I had experience so eventually I was given a chance there. They had a huge library! I worked there from 1985 till around “91 or ‘92. I worked at KLON and KACE so I had R&B, jazz, blues. I had a lot of variety working at different stations.
L.A. Jazz Scene: So how many years has it been?
Bubba Jackson: It’s been 40-years! I’ve seen and heard so much. The business is changing. I left XM satellite radio where I was the Program Director for the Blues channel. While at KLON I got into production. With the 1987 Long Beach Blues Festival. I wanted to meet the musicians and the people who showed up. I’ve been the Emcee at the Doheny Blues Festival at Dana Point for years at two stages. I’m not overwhelmed by audiences of 10,000 people! Someone has to be the “traffic director.” It all fits into my passion for the audience, that it’s a great experience for them. Jazz and the blues are the voice of the people, listeners are touched by the music.
COSTA MESA, CA – Segerstrom Center for the Arts is set to kick off the Orange County summer music scene with a very cool Summer Jazz on the Argyros Plaza series outdoors on the new Julianne and George Argyros Plaza. The Center helped make Orange County a Southern California jazz mecca, presenting the world’s finest musicians and vocalists in its annual Jazz Series for more than 30 years. Now it takes the music outdoors starting Friday, June 1 for 11 consecutive weeks. Shows are from 7- 9 p.m. Bubba Jackson, KJAZZ DJ and jazz legend himself will be on-hand to host each evening. And all concerts are FREE
Bubba Jackson said, “This series is like no other in Southern California, and I’m thrilled to be part of it with Segerstrom Center. Jazz embodies the musical cultures of the various ethnicity’s, beginning with Africa. These musical styles from around the world showcase the melting pot that is America. Its greatness comes from its many distinctive cultural, artistic, ethnic and historic influences. Each Friday, we’re going to experience a part of that rich heritage with this series. We’re going to hear the voices of the past coming to us through these phenomenal artists who have made jazz their artistic language here and around the world.”Jackson explained, “What we have put together are 11 weeks of the finest and most exceptional artists from around Southern California. From seasoned professionals to the next gen of jazz, such as OCSA’s Ambassador Jazz Band. These teenagers “swing and rock” and are on par with any of the top professional groups. Music fans are in for a real treat, and I can’t wait to share these Friday adventures with everyone.”
Jazz fans and families from across the county are encouraged to arrive early to settle in to enjoy early picnic dinners, music and people-watching. The Center’s Café 360 will be open and serving a special Summer Jazz menu. Barbecues and similar food preparation are not permitted, and, due to space limitations, beach chairs and easily portable seating items are welcome, but guests are asked to not bring tables. Set-up begins at 6:00 p.m., with concerts starting at 7:00 p.m.