Watershed

Watershed

3.1 7
by k.d. lang
     
 

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From the title on down to the all-new band, k. d. lang makes a fresh start on Watershed. Focusing her energies on recapturing the spark, the creative impulse in her art, lang looks away from the trappings of hits and fashion. The album is spare, which in lang's hands is a good thing, for few artists have the vocal chops to carry such unadorned beauty (she did

Overview

From the title on down to the all-new band, k. d. lang makes a fresh start on Watershed. Focusing her energies on recapturing the spark, the creative impulse in her art, lang looks away from the trappings of hits and fashion. The album is spare, which in lang's hands is a good thing, for few artists have the vocal chops to carry such unadorned beauty (she did famously stand toe-to-toe with Tony Bennett for an entire album). Documenting her stable relationship, immersion in Buddhism, and rejection of celebrity -- and a couple of years of writer's block -- Watershed is being hailed as a masterwork from one of contemporary pop's most gifted singers.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
It seems very strange that Watershed is the first album of new -- as in self-penned -- material by kd lang in nearly seven years. Her last full-length, Hymns of the 49th Parallel, was a collection covers by fellow Canadians in 2004, and a compilation assembled from her country albums. Watershed also lists lang as producer, another first for the singer and songwriter. There are 11 songs here, including the beautiful single "Dream of Spring," that was released in December of 2007 and kicks off the set. There is a core band here that revolves around old friends Teddy Borowiecki (who not only plays organ, guitar, arranges strings, and does some programming, but also provides additional production in places), steel guitarist Greg Leisz, drummer Danny Frankel, bassist David Piltch (who also does some additional production), and some guests who include Ben Mink, trumpeter Jon Hassel, and Lynne Earls, who is also the recording engineer here. Lang plays guitars, banjo, piano, and assorted keyboards. There are bits and pieces of all of lang's best albums here. There is the elegance of Ingenue, the lush, restrained drama of Drag, and the earthiness of Shadowland with the contentment and joy of Invincible Summer. The songs are assembled as a sort of narrative. "Dream of Spring" opens with bluesy guitar, bass, and a drum loop that becomes a shimmering torch song with pedal steel guitar on its refrain. Lang's voice glides into a near swoon of longing from a reportorial, almost philosophical observation of places she'd inhabited before allowing herself to enter love openly and freely. The strings add a lushness that's in stark contrast with the steel, but it all works. While the song is sexy as all get out, there is a spiritual quotient in it; it's not enmeshed or entrenched. It's not desperate -- unlike some of the more blessed-out dream anthems on Ingenue. "Comin Home" opens with a sparse, slightly jaunty pluck of strings, and lang simply croons right into them: "Oh, sweet sorrow/Let's write the book tomorrow/For I caught a glimpse/Been obsessed with it ever since/My eyes no longer weak amongst the clarity that you pronounce in me..." This is an homage, and perhaps even a love song, but it's a platonic one that is spiritual in nature, whose tenets are very close to the eight worldly dharmas in Tibetan Buddhism. Noam Pikelny's banjo adds a nice dimension to this track, adding itself to the growing presence of strings, simple percussion, Leisz's pedal steel, and a dreaminess that is rooted in the everyday life of what illumination looks like when it is as apparent as the blue of the sky. "Once in a While" is among the most straightforward and ultimately sane love songs to ever come from the tip of lang's pen. The wonderful chorus of backing vocals (all hers), with a simple drum loop, an array of guitars, and an underpinning bassline that glides rather than weights the tune through its changes. "Thread" certainly touches on the feel of the best material from Ingenue, and strangely enough, though it is basically a spiritual song, it's sparser than almost anything here -- and certainly more so than on her former album. There is a small problem with Watershed (though on close reflection it reveals itself to be one of initial perception more than an actual flaw). Despite its wonderfully relaxed feel, an expert use of dynamics in individual songs, and the expert way of slotting different instrumental and stylistic elements next to one another and erasing the seams; it's that by about track six, "Close Your Eyes," the album seems to bleed into a whole, where the mood is so laid-back it makes one song more or less indistinguishable from another -- unless you are listening very closely. At under 39 minutes, it can simply go by you in a slow, dissolving blur. One reason is that lang doesn't stretch vocally the way she has in the past; there is a restraint in her vocalizing that is refreshing because nowhere does she over-emote and allow her natural mode of expression to handle the words, and she inflects enough heart (and only enough) to get the song across: she's not selling it, she's presenting it to the listener. That's new. She has a more disciplined approach to singing that's very attractive, but it is very different; one may mistake it for a kind of laziness on her part. On closer inspection, however, one can hear all the exceptions in these songs that prove this initial notion false. There's the single, of course, and the utterly steamy, jazzy, "Sunday," that feels like an afternoon of lovemaking; Borowiecki's vibraphone resembles Cal Tjader's light touch on the instrument, and the lithe, sinewy keyboard lines that intertwine and even embrace Piltch's basslines (acoustic and electric) are wan and hungry at once. "Flame of the Uninspired" is one place where lang allows her voice to go into its more readily expressive mode, and it's because the tune warrants it. "Shadow and the Frame" is a string heavy ballad where arrangement, and lang's harp (the classical one), bring that notion of travel, distance, reflection, and loneliness to the fore, but the words reveal something very different. Ultimately, it's simply that the sound on Watershed is defined, elemental to its songs. It carries itself with dignity and sensuality, and a sense of balance that none of her previous records have been able to achieve. It's a fine return for the artist, an album she will most likely be proud of years from now. Many of her fans will no doubt be delighted with this artful yet accessible return, and hopefully, those who embraced the younger, wackier, campy aspect of lang's persona will allow for the fact that there isn't anything close to that here. The overachiever has left the building; the seasoned artist remains.
San Francisco Chronicle - David Wiegand
An intriguing mix. The structure of the songs, as well as the arrangements on several of the album's 11 cuts, make "Watershed" worth multiple listens.
The Times (U.K.)
She has finally come up with a masterpiece that holds its place next to, maybe even slightly above, Ingénue.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/05/2008
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597999082
catalogNumber:
110460

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

k.d. lang   Primary Artist,Banjo,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Harp,Keyboards,Vocals
Jon Hassell   Trumpet
Teddy Borowiecki   Organ,Guitar,Piano,Keyboards,Vibes
Danny Frankel   Percussion,Drums
Greg Leisz   Guitar,Electric Guitar,Steel Guitar
Ben Mink   Acoustic Guitar
David Piltch   Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Electric Bass,Drums,Acoustic Bass
Bryan Sutton   Guitar
Grecco Buratto   Guitar
Noam Pikelny   Banjo

Technical Credits

Teddy Borowiecki   Composer,Programming,String Arrangements,drum programming,String Conductor
Steve Jensen   Management
k.d. lang   Composer,Producer,drum programming,Audio Production
Greg Leisz   Composer
David Leonard   String Mixing
David Piltch   Programming,Producer,drum programming
Jeri Heiden   Art Direction
Martin Kirkup   Management
Lynne Earls   Programming,Engineer,drum programming

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Watershed 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What beautiful music. The songs are all ballads. When you're ready to relax and slow down, it's awesome music to listen to. k.d. lang has a gorgeous voice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a true k.d. fan, Watershed was anxiously awaited. Sorry to say, it was a huge disappointment. "I Dream of Spring" is good, but the rest of the album seems to dissolve into one continuous song...nothing to distinquish one from another. The instrumentals are well done, and are different for each song's opening bars, but then the tunes become uninteresting and droning. k.d. has a fantastic voice, but in this album, she is too subdued, often dropping into a register that is too low for her especially on "jealous dog" and "once in a while". k.d. has seemed to take pride in constant reinvention of herself and her career, and maybe this is the next step for her. However, I miss the phase that produced "Nowhere to Stand", and others of that era. Those were lyrics that had meaning, rather than being an exercise in free association. Musically, those songs also were interesting, even captivating, bringing the lyrics home even more. Watershed makes me struggle to stay awake. On the first listen, I found myself starting into a track, only to skip to the next hoping it would be better. Perhaps I'm too pedestrian - this album is simply over my head. But I know what speaks to me, and this presentation says fails to connect. I'll hold on and wait for k.d.'s next reinvention! She's an awesome talent, and her voice is in fantastic shape. However, this collection misses the mark...the passion that ignites so much of her previous work seems lacking. She sounds tired, not sensuous or thoughtful...just ordinary. Usually there is nothing remotely "ordinary" about this lady's voice!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. This is not the K.D. I remember. If she sang these songs on American Idol she would surely be kicked off. Way to boring and bland for such a great singer... or used to be great singer. The songs are about as dull as she looks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
k d has made a beautiful album that pulls you in and lets it go thru jealouis dogs her best song ever i love this cd !!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought I had slipped into a coma by the end of the album. It's a shame since I've been an avid kd lang fan long before she became a household name. At any rate, I'm glad she's found a sense of peace but she needs to get a little bit more energy flowing. I hope the next one is back in line with her previous work like the Constant Craving album.
Guest More than 1 year ago
check out k.d.'s latest. Subdued and minimalistic, this album is a breath of fesh air from over-produced music for the masses. k.d.'s voice is as beautiful and pure as ever, and is the star of this album.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago