Judith Owen describes her latest album, her 10th studio release, as “a love letter to Laurel Canyon”. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles was home to several members of the Californian rock music community. Joni Mitchell lived there and David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash first met in her living room. The area played host to names such as J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Carole King. The Canyon, along with LA’s Troubadour club, became a crucible for the Seventies singer-songwriter scene.

The albums produced by that scene including Mitchell’s Ladies Of The Canyon, Taylor’s Sweet Baby James and King’s Tapestry were among Judith Owen’s favourites as a young girl and Ebb & Flow sees her pay tribute while at the same time adding her own name to the list of accomplished singer-songwriters inspired by the Canyon.

Accompanying Owen on Ebb & Flow are stellar LA session musicians Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and Waddy Wachtel on guitars which brings an added authenticity to the LA ambience. Snappily rhythmic opener Train Out Of Hollywood sets the tone for the album. When Owen sings the lines: “Look at me, I’ve been such a fool, Thinking fame would do what only time can do” it is is impossible not to think of Joni Mitchell but this is certainly no copycat cash in; Owen brings her own voice and craft to her songs. I Would Give Anything and You’re Not Here Anymore are described by Owen as the “bookends” of the album and are dedicated to her late father and mother who she says are, respectively, the reasons she sings and the reason she still can sing.

The album’s two cover songs, an unlikely but highly enjoyable version of Mungo Jerry’s In The Summertime (we can’t hold Owen accountable for the dodgy drink/drive lyrics) and James Taylor’s Hey Mister, That’s Me On The Jukebox fit seamlessly alongside her own songs. One In A Million sounds like it was accidentally discarded from Elton John’s Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy album; it’s been an ear worm in my head for the last few weeks and is a truly terrific song.

I don’t usually comment on the sound quality of albums in my reviews but it is worth mentioning that Ebb& Flow, produced by Owen and Prince associate David Z, is a great sounding record. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a hifi demo staple.

Whether you are a fan of any of the artists mentioned above or you simply enjoy quality songwriting, Ebb & Flow comes highly recommended.

John Scott

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