REVIEW: Wynonna’s “Recollections” Shows Joy in Shifting From Country to Something a Little More Bluesy


I’ve got a little secret to share with you – even with all of the bad out there this year, there are musicians who are having a really good time right about now. Without the constant crush of touring and travel and pressure from their labels, some artists have been able to get back into the studio and simply make music. After signing with indie label ANTI- Records last year, Wynonna (formerly of The Judds) has found new joy in shifting from big country to something a little more bluesy. This week, she’s releasing an EP, Recollections, covering some of her favorite songs in her own new style.

The album leads off with “I Hear You Knocking” (written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King and covered by Fats Domino and Dave Edmunds, among others). In the hands of Wynoona and producer/guitar player/husband Cactus Moser, it’s a loose, fun blow-off – “I hear you knockin’/Go back where you been.” The music and the interplay between the two feel spontaneous as Wynonna belts out her caustis lines. “King Bee” is a slinky blues number from James Moore. Again, it’s just the two of them on the track, which features great slide work from Moser and an old-school come-on from his partner – “I can buzz, baby/When my man is gone.”

Ever since Bonnie Raitt’s magnificent cover of “Angel From Montgomery,” the song has, oddly enough, become a vocal showcase (and not always for the sake of the song). But Wynonna honors the soul in John Prine’s classic, even name checking him in the intro and calling out her “favorite verse” before singing about “flies in the kitchen” and returning home with “nothing to say.” The rendition features subtle harmonies and tasteful lap steel from Moser. They don’t turn their cover into a personal flaunt, making it an appropriate tribute to Mr. Prine’s legacy.

There are two full-band tracks on the EP. “Feeling Good” finds Wynonna tackling the Nina Simone scorcher (written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley). Wisely, she doesn’t try to outsing Simone, but lets the band build the slow burn underneath her (Dow Tomlin’s work on upright bass is a standout here). And the album wraps with the Grateful Dead’s “Ramble On Rose,” which includes an appearance from Bob Weir. who chips in some harmonies with Wynonna. It’s loose and playful, complete with a little Dead-lite jammy-ness. Even in a year of outstanding covers, Wynonna and Moser, with their newfound freedom, have reminded us again how much fun music can be.

Recollections was produced by Cactus Moser and engineered and mixed by Moser and Rodney Dawson. Musicians on the album include Moser (electric, slide and acoustic guitars, drums, keyboards, bass, organ, mellotron, background vocals), Charlie White (electric guitar), Tommy Hannum (electric and steel guitars), Dow Tomlin (bass guitar, upright bass), Chris Tuttle (mellotron, electric piano, accordion) and Bob Weir (electric guitar, vocals).

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