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CD Review: Jill Stevenson & Adam Widoff 

Where We’re Not
(2009, Independent)

Since 2003, Hudson Valley-to-Brooklyn chanteuse Jill Stevenson has been releasing radio-ready music that encompasses pop, rock, folk, and funk. While she has flirted with soul in the past, on Where We’re Not, local multi-instrumentalist Adam Widoff takes her to the altar and marries her to it. Widoff, a collaborator with Toshi Reagon, 420 Funk Mob, and Robert Wilson, makes an effective foil for keyboardist-guitarist Stevenson. This is her finest work yet.

For Where We’re Not, Widoff and Stevenson holed up in Stoney Clove Lane Studio, performing and co-producing two covers, a co-write, and three Stevenson originals. Both sonically and thematically, this is a rich 25 minutes, with dizzying love (“Mr. Perfect”), social unrest (“AmTrack,” by another local, Chase Pierson of Mechanical Bull), post-breakup desolation (“How Late Is It?”), and more. A cover of Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” showcases the aching romantic longing that is Stevenson’s strong suit. Throughout, a compelling rawness and emotional depth comes through, a deeper strata of soul than we’ve previously heard from Stevenson.

While the vintage gear employed here evokes an Al Green-meets-Beatles familiarity, Where We’re Not is not without surprises: a bracing, time-shifting scene change in the Widoff-Stevenson co-write “Don’t Sound Alarm,” an almost-playful sadness to the title track, and, most compelling, a shift from minor to major that makes resignation a thing of beauty in “How Late Is It?”

click to enlarge "Where We're Not" by Jill Stevenson and Adam Widoff.
  • "Where We're Not" by Jill Stevenson and Adam Widoff.

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