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Ever-So-Slightly Rearranged: Jessica Owen’s New Album

From I will preface this (first) review by noting that it will be quite biased. Jessica Owen is also known as The Artist Formerly Known As Jessica Schoenberg. The review is biased because when Jess lived in Edmonton, I performed alongside her for a couple years (93-94), and played guitar on and arranged most of her first album, Sounds Like A Plan, released on cassette only.

Since that time she has changed her styles many times, (and her stage name once), returning to her roots with her fourth release in 1999, Humanisms. By that I mean a more balanced and primarily acoustic sound, yet one in which she is in full control.

Her new album, Ever-So-Slightly Rearranged, continues a musical journey begun in the early 1990s. On this album, she has abandoned her solo songwriting on six of eleven tunes, sharing these duties with her producer, Andrew Hollander, NYC singer/songwriter Bree Sharp, and Diane Scanlon. This time out, she experiments a wee bit with electronic sounds and drum loops and the like, giving the music an edge it didn’t have before. At first I found some of this distracting, but I’ve grown to like its place on the record over time.

It is difficult to chose one standout cut, but I’ll defer to Mr Billboard. It has a great single-note guitar progression that draws the listener close, and explodes with a powerful chorus over which Jessica layers an infectious harmony. As if that’s not enough, Jessica plays a short, distorted guitar solo unlike anything I’ve heard her play before. Jessica and Bree Sharp combine their writing skills on a nifty road tune called American Highway. Guitarist Steve Conte fills the song with tasty licks reminiscent of John Leventhal. Love Song deceives the listener by opening with a gentle acoustic hook on her Stella guitar and then without warning, shifts gears into warp speed and turns the song into a driving mix of electric guitars and fuzz bass.

I like Hollander’s production, which allows Jessica’s incredible voice and melodies to shine in tandem with some great arrangements. The album is a mix of acoustic and electric, of hearfelt tunes and hard-edged songs. Like I said, it’s a biased review – nonetheless, I recommend Jessica Owen’s new album for your collection.

Recently I was invited to join by the editor of the site. While not really fancying myself a critic per se (writing ability helps), I decided to accept, and posted my first review yesterday. One of the editorial requests is to post the reviews on my own site as well, so what you’ve just read is my first review. (Now, go buy the album!!)

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