Album Review: Keep The Elizabeth Ward Land Album STILL WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE Always Within Reach
With her tribute album to Linda Ronstadt, Elizabeth Ward Land enters the realm of recording artists extraordinaire.
by Stephen Mosher Jul. 17, 2022
When I was a boy, my mother explained to me the difference between singing a song and singing a song with emotion. Up until that moment, I thought that people simply opened their mouths and sang… but the way that Juana Mosher described the role of the singer and what their work could do for the listener made it sound like a magical gift, bestowing upon the singer a power to transport people to another place and another time.
Had Juana Mosher been allowed to, she would have used Elizabeth Ward Land as an example of how to fill a musical performance with feeling.
On her new album STILL WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE, Elizabeth Ward Land has made a digital documentation of her award-winning cabaret show paying tribute to Linda Ronstadt, a sort of cast album, if you will, to satisfy those who saw the program and craved a recording, and those who missed the show and who have been feeling down about it, ever since. From her opening number on the thirteen-track disc, Elizabeth Ward Land captures the listener’s attention, and, with all due deference to Ms. Ronstadt, that which, first, grabs the listener is the sound of Land’s own voice itself, and that voice doesn’t let go until the final strains of “Desperado,” wisely left to the last on the forty-seven-minute recording.
There is hardly a person in the world who enjoys music that doesn’t have a healthy respect for Linda Ronstadt. First hailed as a rock and roll singer, the recent birthday celebrant spent her life and career pushing boundaries and reinventing herself by repeatedly exploring diverse genres as a musical artist. Even the greatest singers in the world have looked to Linda Ronstadt as a woman who has used her art to reach the maximum heights available to her, and, still, Ronstadt would be reaching further and higher, had her health permitted it. Clearly moved and influenced by Ronstadt the singer and Ronstadt the woman, Elizabeth Ward Land has thrown every fiber of being into this project, and she and Ronstadt make for a pair of excellent partners; indeed, there are times when it feels like the two were side-by-side in the recording studio, acting as colleagues and contemporaries on the album, which goes beyond being a great “Tribute Album” and lands, squarely, in the category of Plain Old Great Album.
With a voice that reads as powerful enough to play both a concert stage and a Broadway play, EWL has curated a selection of songs from Ronstadt’s catalogue that serves not only as a tribute to Linda but as one to Elizabeth, who proves herself as consummate a vocalist as Rondstadt herself. This is a voice for the ages, rich with depth and nuance, overflowing with emotional connection and technical brilliance. Although there are times when it sounds like one might actually be listening to Linda Ronstadt, the Grammy winner’s voice is brighter and wide open, behind the mask, while Land’s voice is divinely throaty, oriented in a place that reaches right through the heart to the spine, where it resonates throughout the entire body. She was born to sing every song in every genre, which makes her the perfect person to embody the works of Linda Ronstadt, but the success of the album goes beyond just having the right vocal instrument to sing the songs – and the album is a success, by the way: a big one.
When a person decides to do a tribute album to a famous and beloved musical genius, there is a delicate, fine line that must be tread upon, and there are times when it can go terribly wrong, with the resulting record landing somewhere in between banal and boring. Those are usually the albums created without imagination, without teeth, backbone, or nerve. Those are the albums (and shows) during which the artist sings, simply, the songs as originally recorded. Snore. Then there are artists who are so determined to sing the songs of the person they are (meant to be) honoring in a different way than originally done, that the arrangements render the compositions unrecognizable, and where is the tribute in that? Working with arranger Andrew David Sotomayor, EWL has left enough of the original Ronstadt arrangements intact to lull the heart of the fans into a sense of blissful security, while veering into the land of originality, so as to make the recordings, the performances, the songs all her own. There is absolutely no benefit in creating a carbon copy of Linda Ronstadt‘s recordings; the only reward comes in bringing something new to the listening experience, a fact that Elizabeth Ward Land clearly knows, immediately apparent from the opening strains of the album, which feature a clever little fake-out that will make the fans smile with an inside joke that makes them feel included in the conversation.
Like Linda Ronstadt‘s famed artistic relationship with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Ward Land has her own family of artists, and she has made sure to include them in the creation of Still Within The Sound Of My Voice, much to the betterment of the album. With Joel Waggoner creating vocal arrangements that permit three singers to live in harmonies as tight as those often enjoyed by Harris, Parton, and Ronstadt, the album is a
heavenly expression of what occurs when three voices and three artists are in complete and total harmony. Joined by Waggoner and the incomparable Catherine Porter, Elizabeth makes music so resplendent as to make a person dream of a CD of covers from the TRIO albums (the idea of this threesome singing “Blue Train” makes the mouth water). This is one of those wonderful examples of the right artists finding each other at the right time and then committing to a relationship that will yield greatness in both their personal and professional lives… just like when Linda and Dolly and Emmylou did the same thing.
No mere tribute album is Still Within The Sound Of My Voice: it’s one of the best tribute albums on the market, indeed, one of the best albums (period) on the market. It is a blessing and a boon that Executive Producers Karen Mulvey, and Andrew Needleman joined Producer Ken Land in the noble quest to preserve Land’s cabaret show (which is, happily, playing venues around the country), and that the fine folks at LML Music were whip-smart enough to grab the album up for their catalogue. This writer and Ronstadt fan hopes the remarkable recording gets back to the woman, the artist, the trailblazer being honored because, although I do not know Linda Ronstadt, the impression one gets from all that we have learned about this greatest of artists and amazing woman indicates that she would be thrilled and honored by Elizabeth Ward Land‘s variation on the theme that is Linda Ronstadt.
Elizabeth Ward Land STILL WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE is a 2022 release on the LML Music label and is available on all digital platforms. Physical CDs can be bought on the LML website HERE, and on Amazon HERE.
“STILL WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE” TRACKLIST
2. Different Drum (Mike Nesmith)
3. When Will I Be Loved (Phil Everly) / That’ll Be the Day (Buddy Holly / Jerry Allison) / It’s So Easy (Buddy Holly / Norman Petty) / Just One Look (Gregory Carroll / Doris Payne) / It’s in His Kiss (Rudy Clark)
4. Heart Like a Wheel (Anna McGarrigle) / Faithless Love (J.D. SOUTHER)
5. You’re No Good (Clint Ballard, Jr.)
6. Frenesí (Alberto Dominguez)
7. Someone to Lay Down Beside Me (Karla Bonoff)
8. Blue Bayou (Roy Orbison / Joe Melson)
9. Falling in Love Again (Friedrich Hollaender / Sammy Lerner)
10. Pain of Loving You (Dolly Parton / Porter Wagoner) / Somewhere Out There (James Horner / Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil) / All My Life (Karla Bonoff) / Don’t Know Much (Tom Snow / Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil)
11. Long Long Time (Gary White)
12. Still Within the Sound of My Voice (Jimmy Webb)
13. Desperado (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)