Album review: Sunny Ozell – Overnight Lows

‘Overnight Lows’ is Sunny Ozells‘ much anticipated follow up album to her 2015 release ‘Take it with me’, which featured her interpretations of songs by artists ranging from Ray Charles to Hank Williams and Tom Waits. In contrast, her new release features original songs, and a stylistic change previewed to fans new and old at her recent UK shows, including a festival appearance at The Long Road in late 2019 and as a showcase artist at the Americana Association of the UK Festival in London at the start of this year.

A classically trained singer, hailing from Reno Nevada but now splitting her time between homes in New York and LA with her actor husband Sir Patrick Stewart, Ozells’ effortless vocals ooze class. She lists as her influences the likes of Cassandra Wilson and Aretha Franklin, and she has assembled a fine group of musicians to back her, who maintain a real sense of groove through jazz and soul tinged arrangements, with some funk overtones notably on stand out track ‘Hammer and Nail’, which featured prominently in her Long Road set.

Opening track ‘Driving Highways’ sets the tone beautifully, soulful keys and backing vocals evoking the golden era of Muscle Shoals, behind laid back, conversational vocals from Ozell, as she tells the listener ‘I don’t know what I wanted from you in the end/you ain’t a lover and you’re not my friend  ‘, the track further illuminated by tasty slide guitar featured in the introduction and mid track instrumental.

In a strong start to the album the second track ‘Comes and it Goes’ features a hooky chorus, with those soulful backing vocals again, Ozells’ ethereal vocals floating over a chilled band arrangement, while the following track ‘All That I Am’ features another memorable chorus, in an arrangement that has something of a Steely Dan vibe, with horns, and edgy guitar.

Lyrically Ozells’ compositions lean to the emotional side of relationships, as on ‘In The Sun’ where she sings ‘We knew/ this day would come/and now its here/we’ve known for years’ and in ‘The Garden’ ‘We weren’t ready/but whoever is/you aimed an arrow for my heart/but you missed’.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Downstream’ is middle eastern influenced, with echoes of the Dan Hicks classic ‘I Scare Myself’, in the spooky backing vocals, and violin instrumental
‘Take You Down’  which closes the album features a funky arrangement with a memorable riff on keys, and the refrain ‘I’m gonna take you down/ with me’.

As a vocalist, Ozell is on the top of her game, and the soul and jazz leanings fit well in the current Americana leaning towards the 60’s sounds of Dusty Springfield and Muscle Shoals, reflected in the current success in this genre of Grammy nominated artist Yola.

Review written by David Jarman
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