Love Remains

Tal Wilkenfeld

BMG, 2019

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Sometimes when an album surfaces from the to-be-reviewed stack I have to remind myself how it ended up there in the first place.

In this case the answer is, because Tal Wilkenfeld makes an impression. Like many, I first encountered her while watching Jeff Beck’s Live From Ronnie Scott DVD—a young woman with a massive mane of dirty-blond curls playing world-class bass, standing shoulder to shoulder with one of the greatest guitar players ever. Her tremendous skills and arresting stage presence also left me curious about what sort of music someone like that—who’s been a supporting player in the band of an artist as eclectic as Beck—might choose to make as a bandleader.

This album makes clear that Wilkenfeld and Beck were kindred spirits on multiple levels; as with a typical Beck album, Love Remains ranges far and wide tonally and stylistically, with the principal common thread being that each individual piece is rendered with intensity and artistry. Coproduced by Paul Stacey and Wilkenfeld, with Jackson Browne serving as executive producer, the album benefits from the talents of a core band of ace players: Blake Mills (Bob Dylan, The Killers, Daisy Jones & The Six) on guitar, Jeremy Stacey (everyone from Sheryl Crow to King Crimson) on drums, and Zac Rae (Death Cab For Cutie, Alanis Morissette) on keys. Notable guests include Benmont Tench (keys), Michael Landau (dobro) and co-writer of three tracks here Sonya Kitchell (background vocals).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opening track “Corner Painter” was initially released as a single in 2016 and features a big rumbly acoustic-and-electric sound with dramatic vocals, an appropriately dire feel for a song about getting strung along by a married man. “Counterfeit” continues the downbeat lyrical mood while taking on a drastically different sound: a big, burbling bass line under acoustic guitar, lending the song—which may or may not be about a post-breakup breakdown—a dreamy, floating feel.

“Hard To Be Alone” is where Wilkenfeld really stretches things out, a heavy-duty blues-rock number that finds her channeling her inner Robert Plant; it’s spacious, thunderous and riveting. And then, like the hardest jump cut from the last action movie you watched, “Haunted Love” transports us from the arena floor to a smoky little club where Wilkenfeld presents a folk-jazz tune solo over her bass… and it works. One minute she’s Janis wailing like a banshee, the next she’s Rickie Lee in sultry r&b mode, punctuated with a lyrical bass solo.

Venturing forward from there you’ll discover lilting folk-rock (the Sarah Maclachlan-esque title track), punchy power-pop (“Fistful Of Glass”), atmospheric prog-pop (the Peter Gabriel-adjacent “Under The Sun”), and orchestral folk (“One Thing After Another” adds strings and flute in support of one of Wilkenfeld’s prettiest vocals).

“Killing Me” is more along the lines of what I had anticipated, an energetic tune that leans on its prominent, dynamic bass line, reminding at least this one listener of indie folk-rocker Jill Knight. Love Remains closes out with the tart acoustic will-they-or-won’t-they-break-up ballad “Pieces Of Me.”

Tal Wilkenfeld is a world class bass player, a dynamic performer, and a budding singer-songwriter. Her lyrics feel like a work in progress at times, but show promise, even as her voice proves to be every bit as powerful as her bass lines. Love Remains is a showcase for a terrific musician and performer who’s now finding her way a singer-songwriter as well. That’s an exciting place to be and I’m eager to hear what comes next.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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