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ZOň WREN - Reckless River†

ZOň WREN - Reckless River†
Private Label ZW04†

Zoë Wren busks and plays clubs and festivals as a solo performer and in the duo, Roswell. Reckless River is her first full-length album and comprises nine of her songs and Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. Zoe’s compositions have much in common with traditional songs, telling stories with appealing melodies and catchy choruses. They present a refreshingly empathetic, optimistic view of today’s world.

Zoë has been compared to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, and I would add Cara Dillon. Her voice is strong and sweet, and her vocals are crystal clear. She plays guitar, with guest musicians David Delarre (mandolin), Martin Ash (viola), Jonny Wickham (bass), Lauren Deakin Davies (electric guitar) and Tristano Galimberti (percussion and sequencing) adding tasteful accompaniment.

According to the album publicity, the songs are tied together by the theme of journey; I’d guess that this journey is along life’s ‘reckless river’ as much as a literal journey.

These are my stand-out tracks. Cecilia is the closest this album comes to a traditional song. It tells of Zoë’s Slovene great-grandmother who gave up her dream of becoming a nun to marry a widower and look after his children. It has a haunting melody and a thought-provoking chorus: “Nothing’s as frail as the plans that we make.” How true during COVID! Welcome Here comments on the miserable existence of the homeless who still litter our streets and are “not welcome here”. London Town could have been written on a late-night journey home after a gig. Did Zoë imagine the difficult lives of the people she describes? Don’t Touch My Guitar explains how Zoë might deal with anyone who gets too close while she’s busking. Finally, What If comes from Zoë’s charity work inside prisons. It is clear to her that many of the inmates have never had an equal chance in life. The song pleads for compassion.

Zoë Wren is an inspiring musician and contemporary songwriter. I’m certain we will see more of her, but I suspect she is too canny to be constrained by the world of folk and too principled to be seduced by the glitter of the commercial music world.

Simon Haines


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine