CD Review: Ellen Woloshin – Water Into Wine

17 Sep

Ellen Woloshin sings “Joanna”, a song from new album Water Into Wine

"Water Into Wine": sophisticated, literate and absorbing

“Where does all the time go?” asks Ellen Woloshin on the fifth track of her new album, Water into Wine. It’s a good question, coming half way through a collection of largely self-penned songs that have already taken us through several shades of loss and the cyclical nature of relationships.

By this stage, what starts out like a break-up record, with a touch of Carole King-style self-affirmation (“Making My Way Back (To Free)”), has marked itself out as a sophisticated piece of work, defined by literate lyrics, absorbing key changes and modulations, and underpinned by a shifting, restless quality as the core of each song crystalises before Woloshin moves on to another point of view.

She has a lot to say about life experience and – the sign of an assured and skilful songwriter – she says it with clarity and economy.  Music Connection Magazine described her approach as “decidedly female-friendly”, an epithet that strikes me as unnecessarily limiting for such universal lyrics; sure, one or two numbers – “Just Come Home” and “The Words” – might be tagged ‘women’s songs’ but nobody should be put off by such rigorous demarcation.

New Yorker Woloshin is the daughter of celebrated jingle writer Sid, and made her own early way spinning jingles for some well-known American brands. For some time, she’s written successfully for other people, including Dionne Warwick, Ben Vereen and LaToya Jackson. It’s an impressive career path that must have been invaluable in honing her gift for blending instant accessibility with personal reference. Woloshin’s pure alto voice has emerged as a fine, elegant vehicle in its own right, adept at expressing sentiment without pitching into sentimentality.

“Joanna” is a song about the ache of loss; “Round We Go Again” captures the relief of a relationship recovered from the brink; “Don’t Talk to Me That Way” captures the stealthy, destructive blight with which a cruel word can infect a love affair; “Let It Go Now” is a pick-yourself-up message of hope.

There are two odd songs out: Lennon and McCartney’s “We Can Work It Out”, punctuating the line of experience described by Woloshin and her songwriting partner Jennifer Dent with a loose, almost jaunty interpretation of the Beatles classic; and Barney Griffin’s “You Break My Fall”, which brings the set to a calm, poignant resolution. Astutely produced by Steely Dan veteran Kevin Bents, Water Into Wine is a smart, polished advertisement for an impressive talent.

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