What a joy to discover an artist already past the debut album stage. Joan Wasser has already been through so much in her life that there is also a maturity to her music missing from many over-hyped new artists. A classically trained musician, who gained notoriety first as the lover of Jeff Buckley at the time of his death, she has grown in confidence as a singer in her own right after collaborations with Antony Hegarty (of Antony and The Johnsons) and Rufus Wainwright. The band name came about as a means to distinguish herself from her violinist persona and comes from Police Woman, a 70's cop show with a strong female lead. How appropriate.
Joan As Police Woman - Christobel
Her first album, Real Life, begins with a simply beautiful title track. Just piano and her voice and startlingly honest lyrics, 'It's true what they say about me/That I'm out of mind/But I think that you like it/So take the chance/Be reckless, with me/'Cause I'm real life'. It's almost so good that the rest of the album can't quite match its simple brilliance but worry not, it's a fantastic album. Most of the tracks are led by piano or keyboard but that doesn't begin to hint at the variety of styles she is able to create. The musicianship is top class and the album interesting from start to finish. She gets Antony Hegarty to back her on I Defy in which we hear him in uncharacteristically abandoned form. Christobel brings in some electric guitars and a faster pace (as well as having a chorus which sounds vaguely as though she may be singing 'Chris De Burgh. . .'). I wish I'd heard it when it was released.
Joan As Police Woman - To Survive
Her follow up To Survive comes after the death of her mother from breast cancer and contains more fantastic and honest song writing. The title track this time a song from a mother to her child - 'I know what it means to be sad/It never goes/So learn to hold it close as a friend/'Cause we never know/How much we can take/Before we break' - suffused with emotion and building like a big number from a musical (I mean this in a positive way). There are many different styles again from the gently insistent To Be Lonely to the big album closer To America with backing from Rufus Wainwright. Admittedly some tracks work better than others but there is consistent quality throughout in terms of both musicianship and vocals. Along with Leslie Feist and Martha Wainwright, Joan Wasser is flying the flag for female songwriters at the moment and they've never been stronger.