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Getting onboard with Judith Owen

Did we have to go to Paris?

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A baseball fan might say it was a long run for a short slide, but travelling to Paris to catch Judith Owen turned out to be the perfect play. Singing in English and swearing in some six or eight languages, the Welsh chanteuse tours the world, bringing her self-described “standup singer/songwriter” act to audiences who can’t get enough of her, whatever their native tongue. Happily, she’s touring the US soon.

Owen writes most of her own material—social commentary or songs of love and loss—with a folkie’s literary bent and a jazz man’s rhythm and melody. Musically, Owen brings Joni Mitchell to mind, but her lyrics often have a darker hue than Mitchell’s, closer to Emmylou Harris. As important or soul-baring as the songs may be, the patter between each tune kept the crowd upbeat and laughing. Like the bitter of dark chocolate dusted with the bite of coarse salt, Owen has perfectly matched what seems on the surface a mismatched pair.

We caught Owen, bassist Leland Sklar, percussionist Pedro Segundo and a trio of strings on a barge-turned-boite de nuit call The Flow, on the Left Bank of the Seine. (Owen claimed she could feel the boat rocking, but I guess I was having too much fun to notice.) The group played a couple of tunes from Ebb and Flow, then her new album, Somebody’s Child, in its entirety; they dug deep for the second and third encores, the last of which, the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Owen performed as a duo with Leland Sklar.

More about the show later, but we caught a group of musicians having fun before, during and after the show. Here’s photographic proof.

—Suzanne Cadgène


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