“COME ON & GET IT”, THE NEW ALBUM FROM VOCAL PROVOCATEUR
JUDITH OWEN, CELEBRATES THE MUSIC OF THE “UNSUNG BADASS”
LADIES OF JAZZ AND BLUES
Featuring A Cornucopia Of New Orleans Finest Musicians
New Orleans, Louisiana. Delicious, delightful, bodacious, brave, insightful, seductive and fun – just some of the many adjectives one might use to describe Judith Owen’s fascinating and alluring new album, “Come On & Get It,” set to be released September 16th via London’s Twanky Records. The release of “Come On & Get It” will be accompanied by select tour dates worldwide including stops in London October 14th (the Omeira), Paris October 16th and 17th ((Duc des Lombards) and New York City, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
Owen, a now New Orleans native who originally hails from Wales in the UK, conceived of the project as a result of her childhood fascination with the Jazz music of some of the so-called “pioneering but oft forgotten women” of the Jazz and Blues world including Julia Lee, Blossom Dearie and Nellie Lutcher – who she discovered hidden on the shelves of her father’s record collection alongside the likes of Oscar Peterson and Jelly Roll Morton. Captivated and enchanted by these!”unapologetic” chanteuses of the 40#s/50#s, who were singing about sex – and enjoying it at a time when women were meant to sing about romance – Owen made it her mission to dig deep and find out more from both a musical and historical perspective. The result is “Come On & Get It,” the most joyful, uplifting, and empowering project to emerge out of Covid; a throw-back with a fresh feel complete with a look and style that speaks of all those delectable, hugely entertaining women who broke the glass ceiling with their stiletto heels and were ever so proud of it!
Recorded at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans (where else could you hear such greasy joy that speaks of Storyville and Burlesque?), “Come On & Get It” features a stellar cast of musicians including Jason Marsalis, Donald Harrison J.r, Charlie Gabriel, Nicholas Payton, David Torkanowsky, Kevin Louis, Evan Christopher, Ricardo Pascal and many more.
A song from the album, “Blossom’s Blues,” has already garnered over 100,000 followers in the UK as a first single and has been chatted-up by British singer and BBC radio host Jamie Cullum, who gave it a rave.
A complete track listing is as follows: “Blossom’s Blues,” “Satchel Mouth Baby,” “I Didn’t Like It The First Time,” “Tess’s Torch Song,” “He’s A Tramp,” “He’s A Real Gone Guy,” “Big Long Slidin’ Thing,” “Fine Brown Frame,”
“Everything I’ve Got Belongs To You,” “Come On & Get It,” “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast,” “Why Don’t You Do Right,” “Snatch And Grab It” and “Long John Blues,”.
This is Judith Owen: powerful, joyful and authentic
Judith Owen — powerhouse British vocalist, pianist and songwriter — has reached her creative happy place. After a celebrated career, which has seen her release a number of critically acclaimed albums, tour the world and receive praise from the likes of Annie Lennox and Jamie Cullum, the multi-talented musician is ready to embark upon a new era, filled with sparkle and joy. This next iteration of Owen finds her right back at the beginning of her journey into life as a musician as a six-year-old music-loving kid, with her headphones on, singing along to the jazz records she’d discovered via her parent’s record collection in her bedroom.
It starts with the arrival of her 13th album, Come On & Get It, which is a collection of the songs that soundtracked her youth. Featuring tracks by a legion of female jazz musicians from the ‘40s and ‘50s, including Nellie Lutcher and Julia Lee, the album showcases talents who sparked a flame in Owen as a child but who haven’t received the widespread recognition they deserve. Owen explains: “Hearing these women as a kid, I thought they were fun, ballsy, sexy and powerful. They were playing the piano and kicking arse. It was all so impressive to a little girl who was mad about music and piano. It was like, ‘Oh, this is how you can be!’.”
As a child, Owen assumed her idols were world-renowned before discovering that their careers hadn’t been long at all when she moved to the US in the ’90s. “I realised that what I was listening to were race records,” she explains. “These were not songs that white people heard. This was pre-civil rights America so segregation was full on. The only place these women, and so many other great jazz artists, had an equal playing field was in places like Europe, Asia and Australia, which is why it’s so important to me to honour and celebrate them.”
Come On & Get It has come together in New Orleans, known as the birthplace of jazz, where Owen spends half the year. It’s where she found the album’s musical director, David Torkanowsky (who has collaborated with a number of jazz legends including Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and Danny Barker). Musicians on the album include clarinet and saxophonist Charlie Gabriel, who has worked with Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and trumpeter Kevin Louis, both of whom play at legendary New Orleans venue, Preservation Hall. Owen says: “It’s my belief in life that you serve the music but you also serve the era, you do it justice, you do it right and you do it with the finest musicians.” The album will be accompanied by live shows that encapsulate the heritage of the music. Expect an immersive experience that takes you back in time to the speakeasy era in the US. Dress appropriately and get ready to dance: “I’d like to see people turning up in suits and hats and throwing themselves into the party of it,” Owen says.
While you can hear the influence of jazz throughout Owen’s significant back catalogue, it’s not until very recently that she’s felt confident enough to perform the songs that kick-started everything. It began with recording a version of “Fine Brown Frame“ by Lutcher, which gave Owen the inspiration she needed to start bringing this part of her musical history to the live music clubs of New Orleans. The shows were very well received and helped solidify the direction Owen wanted to take her career to next. She says: “That’s when I thought, ‘Fuck it, this feels too good! And I know exactly what this album should be.’”
It’s no fluke that this chapter of Owen’s career has arrived at the same time as her feeling in better health than ever. After going through the tragic loss of her mother to suicide in her early teens, Owen spent the following decades managing her own anxiety-based depression, which at times left her feeling that even the smallest task was insurmountable. She explains: “The smallest thing scares you, like a phone ringing, which would make me run and hide in a room. And then the depression comes in. I was somebody that wouldn’t leave a chair for three days.”
Trying to hide what was happening behind closed doors resulted in Owen losing touch with herself musically but after years of therapy, medication and a desire to claim her own story, she’s ready to step out into the limelight as her full self. “As I’ve gotten better and time has passed, I’ve realised that the health has come from me revealing that side of myself at a time when people are willing to hear and accept it,” she says. “And I wanted to do music that made me smile, lit up my face and made me laugh. I wanted joy. And the songs and these women are all about joy.”
Lutcher’s career started in her teens, playing piano for Clarence Hart’s Imperial Orchestra and Ma Rainey, before she signed to Capitol Records (where Owen also had a deal in the early 2000s) and released two collaborations with legendary jazz artist Nat “King” Cole. During a tour of Britain in the early ‘50s, Lutcher inspired a Beatles-style mania amongst her fans when opening at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. “She was mobbed every night and had to have police come out and protect her from fans who were going crazy because she was so beloved,” says Owen. Yet, despite her popularity, Owen says Lutcher was “minimised, marginalised and ripped off left, right and centre” by the music business, which led to her entering into a 50-year semi retirement.
On Lutcher’s Fine Brown Frame, Owen sings the tale of a woman lusting after a man she’s seen around town. “She’s literally drooling and it’s a really interesting thing to hear from a woman’s perspective, especially in the context of the time the song was released in the ‘40s,” Owen notes. “Hearing a woman talk about a man in the way you’re used to hearing men talking about women was pretty unheard of back then. It’s what makes it so great.”
Blues singer and musician Julia Lee is another powerhouse artist whose influence on Owen can be heard on Come On and Get It. Lee was known for her trademark double entendre songs (those, as she once said, her mother taught her not to sing). With lines like ‘grab it in the place you hold it best’, Snatch and Grab It is “pure filth” says Owen. “It’s about grabbing life, opportunity and everything that’s around you but really, it’s talking about one thing.” Similarly to Lutcher’s music, the song is another example of a woman owning her desires and being the instigator. And, as Owen notes, being funny while doing it. Owen recalls singing her lungs out to another Lee cover on her album, I Didn’t Like It The First Time (The Spinach Song), with her sister and dad on summer holidays. Back then, she assumed it was about sex until her band member, Kevin Louis, set the record straight. “It’s all about smoking dope!”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dinah Washington is another of Owen’s idols whose influence can be heard throughout Come On and Get It. On the cover of Washington’s Long John Blues, Owen sings of a man of “ridiculous heights”. “He’s almost seven foot tall! It’s insane but we know what it’s alluding to. He’s a ‘big’ man.” Another song brimming with innuendo is Big Long Slidin’ Thing, which, on the surface, tells the tale of a search for a trombone. “It really is delicious and on this version I’ve recorded, there’s a plunging trombone solo that leaves no-one unscarred.”
The same themes of confidence, sexuality and humour run throughout the other tracks Owen has chosen for the album. They include Mary Lou Williams’ Satchel Mouth Baby (another tale of a woman lusting after a man) and Peggy Lee’s ode to a bad boy, He’s a Tramp, as well as first single, Blossom’s Blues by Blossom Dearie. In the track, Owen changes the original lyrics from first to third person in order to honour the artist. “The humour is that she’s this diminutive little blonde lady at the piano who was talking about herself like she’s a race horse, a man-eater,” she says of the song. “There’s a great line that says, ‘Ray Brown (who was her bass player) told me that I was built for speed’, which basically means she’s really good in the sack. To me, that is one of the most outrageously brilliant lines I’ve ever heard.”
In Tess’s Torch Song by Pearl Bailey, the story centres around a woman’s best friend stealing her man. “But it’s so joyful,” says Owen. “It features a big band to die for and then there’s Pearl Bailey coming through with that voice like an 18 wheeler. Even though she suffered, she lost and she’s been betrayed, you get the impression that she’s still a powerhouse and she’s going to be fine. The music and the arrangement is in opposition to the theme of the lyrics and I love that.” With Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast by torch singer Julie London, Owen again pays tribute to another of her heroes. “She was the most beautiful vamp vixen who managed to sing songs that even if they weren’t dripping with sex and filled with innuendo, they certainly sounded like it by the time she’d finished with them.”
Owen describes the album as: “Fearless, unselfconscious, ecstatic, unapologetic, highly sensual, funny and witty. It’s smart, musically delicious and absolutely what we all need.” She concludes: “I feel that I’m representing these women who were marginalised, who suffered, who struggled and who I absolutely resonate with because in spite of all they went through in the business, what they produced was beauty and joy and magnificent music that will always be timeless. This is what it’s all about.”