No more soul searchin’ needed for Vonda Shepard as striking sound enchants Dorset audience
Wimborne Tivoli Theatre
The Dorset Echo — U.K. By David Gordon
Although it’s 22 years since she was on our TV screens as the barroom singer in Ally McBeal, Vonda’s connection with her British fans is obviously rooted firmly in the songs from the series
They applauded in recognition at the start of Walk Away Renee and their enthusiasm for the songs that featured in Ally McBeal was obvious throughout the evening.
Much as Vonda would like to move on and concentrate on playing her own songs, she’s happy to give her fans what they want. But it’s a tribute to the quality of her own songs that they stand up so well alongside her distinctive versions of classic pop songs.
Vonda opened the set with I Just Don’t Get It, from her new album Rookie. With its insistent chugging beat and soulful chorus it immediately set the mood for the night as Vonda savoured the luxury of a grand piano and the sympathetic musicianship and subtle vocal harmonies of her bass player Jim Hanson and guitarist James Ralston.
Turn It Up, with its funky verse and melodic chorus, was another new song that stood out. As the night wore on, Vonda started to look frustrated at being tethered to the piano and she finally swapped it for a tambourine, stepping to the front of the stage for a rousing version of Rookie. Having just reminded us that James Ralston had played guitar for Tina Turner for 22 years she put in a performance that itself had strong echoes of Tina Turner – full of power but always knowing when to come off the gas pedal to create dynamic contrast.
A rousing version of Searchin’ My Soul, the theme song she wrote for Ally McBeal, closed the set and the audience brought Vonda and her band back for two more Ally classics to round off a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Click the interview to view a larger image!
Click the interview to view a larger image!
Check out some cool Rookie reviews…
“Widespread fame might be in the rearview mirror for Shepard, but that doesn’t appear to bother her in the least. Rookie is filled with the same terrific white-soul chops and fierce commitment to every song that landed Vonda Shepard in the spotlight in the first place. And the Kickstarter model offers her a chance to reward the loyalty of longtime fans with another round of strong new tunes from the muse herself.”
Jason Warburg, The Daily Vault To read more, click here: The Daily Vault Music Reviews
“Sometimes, taking a back-to-basics approach to song-craft can bear the boldest results, and that is certainly the case with this beautifully realized collection. Highlights include the title track, the opening ‘Need Your Love,’ and ‘Turn It Up, ‘ while elsewhere, more low-key moments like ‘Long For The Days’ and ‘Train To Inverness’ allow listeners the chance to sink into Vonda’s superbly emotive song-writing.
With a simplicity that belies the skills shown in crafting this release, Vonda Shepard shows why she has been so feted in her career. ‘Rookie’ is yet another example of why Vonda Shepard has been lauded for her song-writing and performance, and is certainly worth checking for…
The perfect antidote to over-produced, all frills-and-no-skills pop!”
PC Staff, To read more, click here: popculturez.com
“Don’t get me wrong I like lashings of sharp 90 degree riffs played by skinny kids in ripped cardigans, cute indie popsters singing about how boys are horrid, punishing European techno with not very subtle S&M overtones and woozy folktronica with wobbly choruses (usually in Welsh) as much as the next moccasin wearing hipster but sometimes it’s nice just to bathe in the sultry vocal warmth of a real classy singer. Hello? Vonda? Yes, I mean you.” John Haylock, Read the full review at neonfiller.com
“Meanwhile, the evening’s biggest ovations were awarded to pop star Vonda Shepard (best known for her stint on TV’s “Ally McBeal”) as Lucifer’s lover Martha. Whether belting out the joyous “Life Has Been Good to Me” (perhaps the show’s best known song) or duetting soulfully with Newman on the stirring “Feels Like Home,” Shepard gave the music her all.” Brian Scott Lipton, theaterpizzazz.com
“Indie-pop singer/songwriter Shepard was the find of the evening, at least for theatre audiences unfamiliar with her five years of acting and singing on Ally McBeal. Her solo “Life Has Been Good to Me” and her duet with Newman, “Feels Like Home” were among the peaks of the evening.” Steven Suskin, playbill.com
“The song that received the warmest reception, “Feels Like Home,” was a straight-up love duet for Mr. Newman and Ms. Shepard, who played the rather vaguely conceived role of Margaret’s friend Martha. Ms. Shepard’s soulful singing brought out the yearning quality in Mr. Newman’s own, and the song, about the wonder of finding a home in another’s heart, is a real beauty. So lovely, it seems, that even the Devil was seduced into abandoning his snark — at least until the last chorus had been sung.” Charles Isherwood, NY Times
“And in one of the year’s great stage moments to date, Newman and multi-Emmy and Grammy winner Shepard brought down the house in the second act with the gorgeous duet, “Feels Like Home.”” David Gordon, theatermania.com
“Honestly, even after two Golden Globes, two Emmy Awards, two Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and over 12 million album sales; I never really bothered to listen to Vonda Shepard. Maybe it was an anti-pop culture phase from her “Ally McBeal” fame. Maybe it was being tied to the blues and roots rock. Whatever the reason, that was a huge mistake. Recently I was sent a copy of her latest CD, Solo – just Shepard and her piano – and I was completely overwhelmed. Whether covering famous songs (“You Belong To Me” and “Walk Away Renee”) or her originals – she has my devote attention. No mind wandering background music here. My favorite tracks are “The Sunset Marquis” and “Soothe Me” and both illustrate her song writing finesse as well as her vocal range. I hope she plans on long 2012 tour – this is one show I will plan a road trip.” myjoog.blogspot.com
“Listening to Solo, a listener might think they’re hearing the love child of Paul Simon and Laura Nyro. Recorded live in the studio, Vonda Shepard says of Solo, “I played and sang together to capture the emotion of the moment.” Emotional it is, as well as poetic, ethereal, and intimate.
Like a chapbook of good poetry, the album is unified thematically. The songs are about love lost, love uncertain, and journeys that are metaphors for personal reflection. These travels include 1999’s “Lucky Life Interlude/Maryland” about coming home despite not becoming what your parents desired. She doesn’t want to give up because “there’s nothing to give up.” “You Belong To Me” is a bit of a lullaby with exotic imagery including pyramids, crocodiles, and Tangiers. She’s telling a lover that no matter where you might roam, “you belong to me.” On the other hand, “Soothe Me” is about a woman who needs to wander and spend more time in her solitude. After all, you can’t soothe her unless she’s your first choice, your first prize. In “Lose My Way,” that’s exactly what the singer wants to do “in this world I’ve created.”
Other stories are just as internal. For example, in “I Know Better” Shepard sings that she isn’t going to lean on distant memories. It’s time for today. Then she’s inspired to take notes at the “Sunset Marquis,” where she hears some music which awakens all her senses. The beautiful “Finally Home Interlude/Another January” is about love lost, “when the world seems to turn and run away.” It’s not the singer on the move, but rather all that surrounds her.
Shepard then turns from running to walking in her cover of the Left Banke’s 1966 “Walk Away Renee,” before wrapping up the set with two songs from her 1989 debut album. In its original version, “Don’t Cry Ilene” was a jazzy Adult Contemporary hit about the breakup of an interracial relationship. This time around, the lyrics tell the same story but with a more pensive, reflective delivery. Also from 1989, “Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow” retains its affirming challenge, this time taking the singer out of her atmospheric reveries and into a place where she’s making a firm statement. It’s as if the musings are over and it’s time to blow out the candles.
Solo will be of most interest to Shepard fans, but listeners not hooked on her previous releases may enjoy a recital of her distinctive lyrics and gentle music. The piano work alone is worth the price of admission. Perhaps you’ll share Shepard’s emotional moments and wonder about your own journeys and loves lost or unsure.” Wesley Britton, Seattle Pi
“…Shepard likewise shines on Solo, which finds her (and her alone, hence the title) reprising some of her most familiar and compelling performances. A sprawling rendition of the Duprees classic “You Belong to Me” is an instant highlight. However, it’s on her own material—particularly “I Know Better” and “Soothe Me,” both achingly sensuous and intoxicating moments—where Shepard’s vocal depth and range are best revealed and ultimately most affecting. Altogether, Solo is superb.” Donald Gibson, Blog Critics
“It’d be hard to argue that the 45-year old Californian is a bad performer. She’s incredible. With the energy of Girls Aloud all combined, Shepard gracefully pounds the grand piano and despite sitting behind the instrument for almost the entire set, she manages to ooze a presence which seeps into the spellbound audience. Her band complements the relaxed yet professional ambience to perfection, leaving the limelight to the star. Picking tracks from her latest album, From The Sun, the set is peppered with covers, including a fantastic feel-good rendition of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want To Be With You,” and an enjoyable take on Betty Everett’s “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss).” Of course, the Ally McBeal theme “Searching My Soul” is much-anticipated; it’s rousing, uplifting and the entire venue can’t help but sing along. In an age where music is all too often styled, fashionable or fake, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see such inherent talent performed naturally with such sunny disposition. Delectable.”
“(Vonda’s) voice and writing talent provided the catchy theme from the show (Ally McBeal), and her singing provided a backdrop and sometimes more. Her soulful voice on vintage covers was an important part of a quirky, popular television series… Highlights here include the aforementioned theme, ‘Searchin’ My Soul,’ another original, ‘The Wildest Times of The World,’ her delicate version of ‘I Only Wanna Be With You,’ and two previously unreleased songs, ‘Something About You’ and ‘I Know Better.’ Ally McBeal fans, lovers of well-crafted pop/soul covers, and folks who want to touch bases with Vonda’s original muse need to grab this one.”
Ricky Flake, Sun Herald
“The (Best of Ally McBeal) compilation makes me feel nostalgic for a time I can barely remember: the late 90s/early 2000s. That, however, is also the beauty of the album. It makes me yearn for a love that I have never had…. This feeling could also be due to the dramatic head-thrashing I did during ‘Baby, Don’t You Break My Heart Slow.’”
Scarlett Lee, Yale Daily News
“Now back with her first studio album in five years, the LA-based musician recently completed her UK tour, with a stunning performance at Picadilly’s The Pigalle Club last Friday. Showcasing new material from her latest album From The Sun, Vonda was on top form as she sat at the piano, playing alongside her phenomenal band… Judging by this intimate concert, there is no doubt that Vonda has the talent and longevity to be making music for many years to come yet.”
Anna Nathanson, MusicRooms.net
“From the Sun comes six years post-Ally McBeal and is one of her
most consistent albums. One of the things that makes From the Sun a creative success is Shepard’s willingness to provide some R&B-minded songs; her appreciation of classic soul is especially evident on “Ecstatic” and “Downtown (Dirtytown),” although she has never been an R&B singer in the strict sense. Rather, she is a pop/rock singer who occasionally brings R&B-minded songs to an adult alternative/adult contemporary orientation, and pop/rock is clearly the main ingredient on introspective tracks such as “Another January,” “Where I Belong,” “The Rocky Water,” and “Finally Home.” …From the Sun is one of her best releases and finds her in memorable form as both a vocalist and a songwriter.”
Alex Henderson, AllMusic.com
“Looking back, Vonda Shepard was more a metaphoric part of (Ally McBeal) than you probably realized; with her tough-but-hot blonde-ness and impenetrable voice, she stood as Ally’s life-force, this manifested in Shepard’s weepy ballads when Ally got dumped, rockin’ soul when the yuppie club was pumping. Nothing’s changed except for the pedigree of Shepard’s record label. As before, she’s burdened – or blessed – with one of the most uniquely textured voices in American pop culture, part Anita Baker, part Aretha, but with a well-defined limit she refuses to screw with. ‘Another January’ has a pulse, however, in its kinship to Beach Boys ‘Sail on Sailor,’ and a few other high-minded attempts do point to a desire to break away from her (inescapable) typecasting.”
Eric Saeger, Glide Magazine
“Vonda Shepard rocketed to stardom as the key musical component of the TV show Ally McBeal. But the pop singer-songwriter created a lot of terrific music both before and after that series. Her latest album, From the Sun, truly shines. It has a powerful R&B feel. One of the highlights on the album, which rousingly blends soul, rock and gospel flavors, is the song ‘Downtown (Dirtytown).'”
Paul Freeman, Palo Alto Daily News
“Shepard’s music takes a drastically deeper, more mature turn with this blues-flavored album that she attributes to the birth of her son… but fans have nothing to fear; the quality of her music hasn’t slipped.”
April Olinchak, Montgomery News
“From the Sun is filled with reflective songs, all of which find added depth through Shepard’s ever-soulful singing.”
Ed Bumgardner, Winston-Salem Journal
“From the Sun is a welcome return from the lengthy hiatus, with Shepard working her way through 10 mostly solid tunes… there are flashes of the talent and powerful pipes that so impressed the Ally gang. Among the better tunes here are opener ‘I Know Better,’ the title track, ‘Where I Belong’ and ‘Downtown (Dirtytown).’ Even when she misses the mark — ‘Another January,’ ‘Ecstatic’ — Shepard manages to inject emotion and sincerity into
the material. And that’s not a claim all artists can make.”
Jeffrey Sisk, The Daily News
“The singer/songwriter genre doesn’t get any better than this.”
Chris Willman, Entertainment Weekly
“Shepard’s the classic singer/songwriter type; her soul-baring confessionals are tempered by flashes of wit and whimsy along with a hook or two and often bittersweet underpinnings.”
Darryl Morden, The Hollywood Reporter
“This is adult music at its finest: intelligent without the stain of showiness, intimate yet only the tiniest bit whiny, and ultimately, completely musical.”
Robert L. Doerschuk, AllMusic.com
“Shepard favors a more organic and introspective approach… Indeed, those who have appreciated the emotional complexity and depth of Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan will find a lot to admire .”
Alex Henderson, AllMusic.com
Links to articles and TV appearances:
What’s Up, Orange County? in Southern California