Karen Oberlin/Sean Harkness, A Wish (Miranda Music)

Jonathan Widran
  Jonathan Widran

 

Karen Oberlin/Sean Harkness
Celebrated for many years on both sides of The Pond for her interpretations of the Great American Songbook and beyond, critically acclaimed, multiple award winning vocalist Karen Oberlin – accompanied exquisitely by the simple but lush acoustic guitar of renowned performer Sean Harkness - lends both heartbreaking poignance and exuberant declarations of “Love” (as per Joni Mitchell’s Corinthians quoting song of that name) to the colorful and creative set list of a warm and inviting intimate recording that truly grants its title: A Wish.

Oberlin has been quoted as saying that “telling the story, both musically and lyrically, is what I find most exciting and galvanizing as a performer.” Her heartfelt, graceful meditations on renowned and offbeat standards (“My One and Only Love,” Billy Strayhorn’s “No One Knows,” “Poor You” and “Remind Me”) reveal her as a masterful storyteller, sharing every emotional nuance of the poetic lyrics. Thematically, Oberlin’s song choices are clever. Instead of the tried and true “Autumn Leaves,” she covers the same wistful territory via the exquisite “Autumn Nocturne”; rather than “My Funny Valentine,” she taps Paul McCartney’s simple and sweet (if relatively obscure) declaration to “My Valentine.” Oberlin transcends the hush on a lively, soaring rendition of the Mitchell tune, which finds Harkness kicking up the rhythm to convey the Biblically based hopefulness.

One of the 13-track collection’s most inspired choices, Paul Simon’s harmonic story song “Train in the Distance,” is likewise given a lighthearted pop-folk treatment, and serves as a beautiful metaphor as well. Oberlin and Harkness approach our hearts slowly, like that oncoming train that seems far away, and then, suddenly and without warning, they take over our senses and our hearts are carried along for an exciting ride.

 

 

 

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- Jonathan Widran