CHARLES LLOYD & THE MARVELS + LUCINDA WILLIAMS - Vanished Gardens (2018)
At first sight, jazz legend Charles Lloyd and Americana singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams make an odd couple: the former celebrated for his upbeat tenor sax and lyrical flute playing, the latter for her downcast songwriting and racked vocals. The pair share southern roots, however, while two of Lloyd’s eclectic combo – mercurial guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel player Greg Leisz – have previously worked with Williams. Last year, Lloyd and Williams delivered a single, a version of Dylan’s Masters of War in a spirit of protest that is maintained here on the instrumental Defiant, and a new song from Williams, We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around.
The mood is varied, however. Williams reprises three old songs, including 2007’s Unsuffer Me, with Lloyd matching her anguish (and how nice to hear her without guitar squalls), while a version of Hendrix’s Angel caresses the song’s beauty and optimism. Lloyd’s playing, in his 80th year, remains fluid, still pushy on the title track, reflective on Blues for Langston and La Rue, while the Marvels match his invention. Too bad Williams doesn’t sing on the plaintive Ballad of the Sad Young Men. Otherwise, this unexpected collaboration doesn’t miss a trick.
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