Take It With Me
(Man in the Moon)
So I received an email a while ago recommending the debut album by a New York songstress called Sunny Ozell. I was curious as the album is a collection of material by both legendary and little-known songwriters (but reimagined by Sunny). A bit of background on Sunny Ozell; she’s from Reno, Nevada, she began classical training at age ten and became the only child member of The Reno Opera Company, and she then attended university in Boulder, Colarado spending her spare time singing in blues bands. Then in 2004 she moved to New York City and met her husband Sir Patrick Stewart (he’s quite a famous actor apparently…)
Opening track ‘Manhattan Island Serenade’ is a Leon Russell song which features quite summery electric guitar from Aaron Lee Tasjan, Ethan Eubanks (Ozell’s drummer, musical director and the album producer), bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Andrew Sherman. Sunny’s vocal have quite a rich tone and her delivery reminds me of American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. She would probably be well received by her fans.
Julian Velard’s ‘Family Tree’ is a vocal highlight for me and has a pleasant percussion backing whilst ‘Move Along Train’ has a Motown vibe with a fuzz guitar in the style of Marc Ribot who is the guitarist of Tom Waits.
Randy Newman’s ‘Louisiana 1927’ is interesting as his material is so emotionally-charged that if a person attempts any of his songs they are either stunning or awful. Sunny’s take on it is well-thought out as it still conveys the importance of the lyrics.
‘Git Gone’ has pedal steel guitarist Jon Graboff and really feisty lyrics (I think it is the first time I have ever heard the word mother****** in rockabilly/country song). I can see radio broadcasters such as Bob Harris playing this song frequently (well a radio-edit version of course!)
‘Number One’ isn’t as strong as the other tracks and although music is all about emotion, the lyric ‘go smoke yourselves, get cancer and die. I ain’t got the time’ is extremely cold and I don’t really think I will be listening to this track again any time soon.
‘Only In the Movies’ is by little-known songwriter David Mead and it has really clever lyrics as Sunny sings ‘Only in the movies, things work out’ which is a completely true statement. The keyboard makes this song sound like a lost Carpenters track.
Songs like this really are hidden gems and the fact that artists like Sunny Ozell are giving them the chance to be heard is a fantastic thing. Howard Jones’s 1986 hit ‘No One Is To Blame’ is given a New Orleans-style music makeover with a horn section instead of its original electropop vibe and you feel like you’re in an intimate music club nestled in the backstreets. Being able to essentially ‘strip down’ songs is a skill in itself and Hank Williams’s ‘Can’t Help It’ (a duet with Teddy Thompson) proves that not only does Sunny have a really great music collection but she is able to determine what needs to stay the same and what needs to have her own ‘stamp’ on it.
In conclusion, I can see Sunny Ozell receiving a substantial amount of airplay over the coming months as the songs selected all have a unique sound and her vocals are quite heartfelt. I would like to hear some original material at some point in the future though. A very listenable album that puts the songs first.
Sunny Ozell’s debut album ‘Take It with Me’ is released in the UK on Friday 31st July 2015.