‘Under The Pepper Tree’ Is A Successful First Family Music Outing For Sara Watkins

Courtesy: New West

Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her.  Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree.  The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton.  That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies.  Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers &  Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940).  Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else.  The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember.  Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.

On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies.  That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations.  So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself.  It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable.  The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.

Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next.  For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch.  Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’  Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by  the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert.  It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings.  Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie.  It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer.  Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too.  Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby.  That is a telling statement. 

On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar.  Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.  Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era.  To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.

‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record.  Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically.  Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take.  Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition.  They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ.  Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here.  Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy.  That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation.  When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content.  When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like.  When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.

The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’  The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’  Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved.  It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’  So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener.  As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle.  Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time.  The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation.  They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal.  The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time.  That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed.  That will result in a positive mindset for any listener.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins.  Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:

Websitehttps://sarawatkins.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarawatkins

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/SaraWatkins

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Andy James’ New Covers Compilation Will Get At Least Some Love

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Jazz singer Andy James has made a career of covering music from well-known artists who have come before her.   Her debut 2018 record No Regrets and its 2019 follow-up Blue are collections composed primarily of covers of others’ works.  Now in 2021, James has continued that trend with yet another collection of covers in her latest album Tu Amor — roughly translated, that title means Your Love.  The 11-song compilation does not necessarily break any new ground for James, though is still somewhat entertaining.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the body of this compilation.  They will be discussed shortly.  Staying on the topic of the featured songs, they lead to one detractor that listeners cannot ignore, the lack of information as to the songs’ information.  Ironically, that negative actually leads to its own positive.  That will all be discussed a little later.  Everything noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Tu Amor.  All things considered, the compilation proves itself a presentation that at least some listeners will love.

Andy James’ new compilation record Tu Amor is an intriguing record that will appeal to her most devoted audiences.  That is proven in part through the songs that made up the record’s body.  The songs in question are largely well-known standards from some equally well-known figures.  James takes listeners as far back as 1930 with a take on George and Ira Gershwin’s timeless tune ‘But Not For Me’ and as recent as 1970 with a take on Henry Mancini’s ‘Loss of Love.’  Along the way, there are also covers of songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra (‘Night & Day’), Carlos Santa (‘Evil Ways’) and even Tony Hatch (‘Call Me’).  The latter is slightly less well-known than the others noted here, but the song itself is still well-known.  Simply put, James pulls from a relatively wide range of influences here.  She pulls songs from some of the most gamed American composers and performers for this compilation and from some equally popular Latin/Hispanic names (E.g. Alberto Dominguez and his hit song ‘Perfidia.’  That James would pull from that range of composers and performers gives listeners reason itself to hear this record at least once.  That the songs come from a relatively wide range of eras means the songs have different feelings in each work.  Her Latin-tinged take on the famous songs (which is nothing new for her, considering she has taken the same approach on the aforementioned records) gives the songs their own unique take while staying at least somewhat true to their source material.  Keeping all of this in mind the songs that feature in James’ new record are themselves a positive that her most devoted fans will appreciate.  Staying on the topic of the songs, they lead to the compilation’s one and only negative, its lack of information about the songs’ backgrounds.

As noted already, James takes listeners on a musical trip back through time in this compilation.  The artists and composers whose music she covers is relatively diverse, as is the style of songs.  While this in itself does enough to make for at least some appeal, audiences will note that James does not make mention of the original composers and artists associated with each song.  Whether this omission was the result of James herself or someone else, it means on one level that those responsible for the songs are not getting the credit they deserve.  Yet at the same time, the musicians who performed the songs with James in each song get their due credit.  To that end, one is left scratching one’s head why even that simple starting point is ignored here.  This is important to note because those who might not be so familiar with the noted songs and their history might be misled to believe that this is in fact a collection of originals rather than a grouping of covers.  That again is a disservice to the composers and artists who originally crafted the featured songs.  It is a negative that one cannot ignore and detracts considerably from the record.  Luckily it does not detract to the point that it makes the compilation a failure.  That is because it leads to an unexpected positive.  That positive is the fact that it leads the noted uninformed audiences to make their own journey in music history education.

The lack of a record of artists and composers in James’ new compilation is negative, yes, but at the same time it is positive.  That is because, as noted, it leads audiences who might be less familiar with the histories of each song on their own journey of discovery and education.  So actually in a way, there is a latent function to that lack of information here.  In researching the songs and learning the identities of their composers and performers, audiences will perhaps gain a new appreciation for those figures and their works.  On an even deeper level, discovering the identities of the noted figures and even the stylistic approaches to the source material of each song could also serve as a starting point for what could become an even bigger, deeper voyage into the great American genre that is jazz.  Keeping that in mind, the one negative from which this record suffers is in some odd way, its own positive.  When this is considered along with the wide range of songs covered here, the two elements together make the compilation a presentation that will find some of its own love.

Tu Amor is an intriguing new offering from jazz singer Andy James.  Its intrigue is raised in part through its featured songs.  The songs are compositions that pull from the “great American songbook” and from even rock and Latin worlds.  They pay tribute to some well-known and lesser-known works while giving those songs welcome updates.  The songs can and likely will lead to discoveries and appreciation of even more jazz in the process.  That is because audiences are left to research the songs themselves due to the lack of information on the original artists and composers in the compilation’s liner information.  That lack of information is the compilation’s only negative, because it does not give the noted figures their due credit.  Again ironically, it leads to the noted positive, bringing everything full circle.  Keeping everything noted here in mind, the compilation in whole will not ultimately prove to be a timeless compilation (especially considering that James has made a career of covering others’ works), but it will still find its own love.  Tu Amor is available now.  More information on the compilation is available along with all of Andy James’ latest news at:

Website: https://andyjames.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndyJamesJazz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesjazz

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.