NEW YORK SONGSTRESS SUNNY OZELL STEPS OUT WITH
DEBUT ALBUM “TAKE IT WITH ME”
The Blues, Jazz and American Roots Based Album is a Collection of
Works by both Legendary and Little-Known Songwriters Reimagined by Ozell
An accomplished songstress from New York, Sunny Ozell has set out to showcase her special vocal talents across a spectrum of pieces by songwriters both legendary and little-known in her debut album TAKE IT WITH ME. A classically trained vocalist, Ozell found her voice performing in New York City clubs in front of the most discerning of audiences. There she honed her sound with elements of jazz, blues, and American roots as part of the city’s tight-knit musical community. It is that moment in time with her fellow musicians in New York that Ozell captures in TAKE IT WITH ME.
"We've been playing these tunes onstage and sorting it out in front of audiences for quite a while," Ozell explains. "So by the time we got into the studio it was really all about capturing the performances. People always talk about doing a record the old-fashioned way but we really did—even the vocals were recorded live. The studio we tracked at has great sightlines from the vocal booth, and I sang along with the band as though we were together at a venue."
Whether she's singing Randy Newman's lyrically charged “Louisiana 1927,” the rolling gospel of Pops Staples's “Move Along Train,” the old-style country of Hank Williams's “I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You,” or reinventing Howard Jones's 1986 electropop chartbuster “No One Is To Blame,” Ozell finds a way to breathe her own luminous personality into the music. Ozell can also convince you the T Bone Burnett/Roy Orbison composition “Kill Zone”—a rarity tucked away on Burnett's 2008 album Tooth Of Crime—and other songs such as Julian Velard's “Family Tree,” and David Mead's “Only In The Movies” have up to now, been criminally denied their richly-deserved place in the spotlight.
The album fulfills its ambition to be no more or less than a collection of great songs. It's even something of an education in the way it pulls together pieces from different styles and different eras, by writers old and new. "I do love the process of interpretation," enthuses Ozell. "I love making something mine. I think first you have to figure out what makes the tune special and why you like it. Then you need to find out what it is that needs to stay the same and then what can you bring to it to make it yours, while leaving it untouched in all the right ways."
She achieved this on the album's title song, a haunting Tom Waits composition in which the singer bids a nostalgic farewell to the most valuable things he, or she, has known in their lifetime. In Ozell's restrained and insightful performance, it becomes almost unbearably poignant.
Ozell’s drummer and musical director, Ethan Eubanks also produced the album. Eubanks can boast a list of musical credits, from collaborations with Teddy Thompson and Juliana Hatfield to a stint in jazzman Joe Sample's trio. He plays with Ozell at her regular gigs at Rockwood Music Hall or The Living Room on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and added a vital multitasking presence to the creation of the album.
The major players on the album have all been regular members of Ozell's band and include bassist Andy Hess, keyboardist Andrew Sherman, pedal steel guitarist Jon Graboff, and guitarist Aaron Lee Tasjan, who also lent two of his original songs to the record, the rockabilly-ish “Git Gone” and the exquisitely wistful “Number One.” The string section for the album was supplied by Chris Carmichael.
Ozell hails from Reno, Nevada where she spent most of her childhood. At the age of 10 she began her classical training and became the only child member of the adult chorus in the Reno Opera Company. During her days at university in Boulder, Colorado, Ozell began singing with blues bands in her spare time as well as with what she describes as "a 10-piece Afro-Cuban funk mess." In 2004, Ozell decided to break away and make the move to the Big Apple. At first she found the scale and intensity of New York daunting, though after a while everything slid into place and she found her calling in the music scene performing with players she greatly respected.
It was in New York eight years ago that she serendipitously met her husband, Sir Patrick Stewart. Between their two busy schedules, Ozell works to make time for live performances and will also be planning a tour in support of TAKE IT WITH ME in the near future.
TAKE IT WITH ME Track listing
1. Manhattan Island Serenade (Leon Russell)
2. Family Tree (Julian Velard)
3. Move Along Train (Roebuck “Pops” Staples)
4. Louisiana (Randy Newman)
5. Git Gone (Aaron Lee Tasjan)
6. Kill Zone (Bob Neuwirth/Roy Orbison/T-Bone Burnett)
7. Number One (Aaron Lee Tasjan)
8. Only In The Movies (David Mead)
9. No One Is To Blame (Howard Jones)
10. Can’t Help It (Hank Williams) – with Teddy Thompson
11. Take It With Me (Kathleen Brennan / Tom Waits)
Dan Deacon and Lewis Fromberg – Deacon Communications