Crivens! It's good!
When I was twelve years old I remember watching an episode of Top of the Pops that deeply impressed me. I was not a music fan back then in the least, preferring to ape whatever my parents or brothers were listening to, but something on this show has stayed with me to this day. There was a performance by Lenny Kravitz doing Are You Gonna Go My Way, which I thought was uber cool (more so because I had no idea at that time who Jimi Hendrix was) and another was Constant Craving by k d lang. Although time and bad nostalgia has caught up with me and I no longer feel comfortable listening to it, at the time I thought that it was the bee's knees. The sweeping verses, strong chorus, it was all there for me. Two short years after this I bought (What's The Story) Morning Glory by Oasis and have been in a passionate relationship ever since, forgetting that Top of the Pops encounter. Until “Watershed” popped into my life anyway.
One could be forgiven into thinking that “Watershed” is an album marketed to the over 40s, Radio 2 and Grammy Award recommends crowd and that, for the most part is true, but that's not to say that there's something to enjoy here for everyone. What strikes you when listening to the album is just how listenable it actually is. Time has calmed lang's voice from the grating throatiness of yore and it now is a pitch perfect, tender thing that plays over the songs well, which comes as a relief. More surprising is the style of the album. From sleeve art one expects it to be some awful, Rod Stewart-esque foray into standards, all thick Nat King Cole strings and De Lovely vocals. But in actual fact, the whole of “Watershed” is rather refined, considered and, dare I say • cool?
Many people will be put off this album merely because it is k d lang, and this is a sad. If you caught “Je Fais La Planche” on the radio then you would think that it was a decent effort, reminding you of many a modern jazz singer, like Diana Krall. Elsewhere, “Once In A While” almost manages to sting your eyes with the light but strong emotion. Yes, “Watershed” is not exactly a huge step forward in musical invention and yes, it does appeal to older listeners, but so does Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand. And, unlike that album, this is an album of original compositions that are well thought out, beautifully arranged and expertly delivered. The polish may take away the soul for some, but for others, stars may be found in the sheen.
“Watershed” comes with a hefty recommendation for anyone who enjoys lounge based singer songwriters or simply appreciates the craft of a quality song when they hear one. Young, cool and reckless whippersnappers will no doubt scoff at this review and laugh at the idea of someone who was born after 1965 enjoying something by k d lang, but honestly, it's a great album that people should feel proud of putting on at the end of a night while sipping a nightcap, thinking of the evening just spent and of how good life feels.