Nancy Wilson/You and Me/Carry On Music
3.5 out of Five Stars
Given her illustrious history at the helm of Heart—with whom she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—it seems somewhat incredulous that Nancy Wilson has yet to release a solo album. There was a live release culled from a performance at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in 1999, but Wilson reportedly dismisses that as part of her official trajectory, choosing to emphasize the new You and Me as her actual solo debut instead.
Then again, with Heart on hiatus and the world undergoing the turbulence and trauma its encountered over the past 14 months, it’s really no surprise that Wilson would want to reestablish her presence with a work that incorporates covers and original compositions, the latter of which recall the soothing sounds associated with the band’s much ballyhooed breakthrough, Dreamboat Annie and the various songs that followed —among them, the title track, “Dog and Butterfly,” “These Dreams” and “Alone.” Her shimmering vocals and the comforting caress of her acoustic melodies find a fine segue with a selection of well chosen covers by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Paul Simon and the Cranberries. So too, when the set is capped with “4 Edward,” a delicate instrumental coda dedicated to her late friend, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, it ends the set both cohesively and convincingly.
While covering well-trod songs can sometimes find a difficult divide between remaining faithful to the original renditions and putting one’s own stamp on those proceedings, Wilson tows the line with an adeptness and agility that keeps the established melodies in full focus even while adding an emotion and expression all her own. That said, it’s difficult to diverge from such iconic offerings as “The Rising,” “Daughter” “Dreams,” and “The Boxer” without undercutting their essential stature. While the “The Boxer” features backing vocals from Sammy Hagar in what might seem at first glance a somewhat incongruous combination, the track still works well, mostly because Wilson chooses not to depart from the melody of Simon’s seminal standby.
Likewise, her take on the upward sweep of “The Rising,” “Dreams” and “Daughter” retains the same anthemic urgency found in the iconic originals, suggesting that Wilson was reticent to vary too much from the template. That leaves it to her newer material to emboss the album with a singular stamp. “You and Me,” “Walk Away,” “We Meet Again,” and “The Inbetween” are all superior songs, each well worthy of inclusion among the finer works of Wilson’s repertoire. And while “Party at the Angel Ballroom” seems something of a concession to those insisting on retracing Heart’s hard rocking resolve —think “Magic Man” or “Barracuda,” it’s only a momentary distraction from the more thoughtful entries that share its space in the set. It also offers opportunity to slide two more special guests onto the marquee, in this case, Taylor Hawkins and Duff McKagan. Their willingness to rock alongside Wilson ought to add interest.
An all inclusive entry, You and Me serves to reaffirm Wilson’s resolve.