Album Review of
Back To The Garden

Written by Joe Ross
June 10, 2021 - 4:21pm EDT
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When touring came to a halt in 2020, many artists returned to the recording studio to find outlets for artistic, creative expression. It also makes sense that songs from the sixties are still timely and meaningful during recent periods of conflict, polarization and injustice. Plato once said that music is “the essence of order and lends to all that is good and just and beautiful.”  Judy Wexler’s sublime voice is confident, assuring and optimistic on her sixth album, Back to the Garden, that reimagines ten classic songs from 1960s folk, pop and rock repertoires. Jeff Colella, her longtime pianist and arranger, imparts an expressive jazzy groove to songs from Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Stephen Stills, Fred Neil, Carole King and others.  

The opener, Chet Powers’ “Get Together,” is a clarion call for peace, unity and brotherhood. There are also stellar interpretations of classics like Dylan’s “Forever Young” and Collins’ first major original composition in the mid-60s, “Since You’ve Asked.” In addition to piano, guitar, bass and drums on all tracks, arrangements are embellished with colorings of violin, viola, cello, trumpet, sax, harmonica and melodica. Erin Bentlage’s background vocals sweeten four tracks including “Get Together,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Forever Young” and “For What It’s Worth.”

Closing with the gem, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (arranged by Josh Nelson), Wexler gets introspective about not fearing time, and she shows sensitivity to our own human condition, frailty and mortality. The conclusion seems also a nod to the half century that’s passed since the sixties and to singers, like Collins and Denny who have influenced the vocalist. As we know, Denny’s career was cut short when she sadly died in 1978, at age 31, from injuries sustained in a fall down a flight of stairs.  Passionate and filled with memorable passages from a solid repertoire, Back to the Garden is a joyful, timeless expression of lyrical depth. It left me wanting more, and I’d love to see Wexler and company release more reinvented chestnuts of love and hope from that era of great music. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)