Music

Rebecca Turner Returns with 'The New Wrong Way' (premiere) (interview) (album stream)

Photo by Scott Anthony, Courtesy Howlin' Wuelf Media

New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Rebecca Turner fuses elements of her classic sound on The New Wrong Way, which brings together country and rock with loving tributes to two musical giants.

Rebecca Turner issued two albums a little more than a decade ago, Land of my Baby (2005) and Slowpokes (2009). Drawing on influences that range from Emmylou Harris to Liz Phair, the records demonstrated her ability to fuse sometimes seemingly disparate worlds and write songs that were frequently funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always memorable.

When she began penning material for a third effort, something changed. The years went by with no new recorded output until Turner set a deadline: she'd release a new album in 2019.

The result is The New Wrong Way, filled with 13 songs that speak to her greatest strengths, whether the walloping garage country of "Living Rock", a loving portrait of singer Anita O' Day ("The Cat That Can Be Alone") and the raucous, celebratory "Cassandra." Meanwhile, "Circumstances" and "What If Music" find her leaning deeper into the country music world, albeit with subtle touches that never betray the album's overall vibe.

A remarkably cohesive set that is both contemplative and uplifting, The New Wrong Way is evidence that Turner remains as strong a writer as ever and maybe has even become a more accomplished one. The album arrives 6 November.

Joining Turner are her husband Scott Anthony (Fond Farewells, Nu-Sonics), Rich Feridun (Tammy Faye Starlite, Jimmy LaFave, Amelia White) and Sim Cain (Rollins Band, Chris Harford, Marc Ribot) plus longtime friend, harmony singer Sue Raffman. Tracked primarily at Turner and Anthony's Storybook Sound, with further material captured at the venerable Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, where former Big Star drummer Jody Stephens is still employed.

Turner spoke with PopMatters about the road to The New Wrong Way.

Your last album came out in 2009. When did you know you wanted to make this one?

I could not go another a year. It needed to be within ten years. I was still writing and performing. When I was younger I wrote more songs and you have to write a lot of bad songs. In the last ten years I was writing less. That meant less bad songs and less good songs. I wrote more slowly. But I really wanted to make something that was album-length.

This album harkens back to a previous time. The music really breathes.

We wanted to do as many things as loosely as possible. I love my first records but I was younger and took more time with them. I would do lots of vocal takes. I think I've learned to sing better and so a lot of the songs are first takes.

You went to Ardent Studios.

My stepson goes to college in the South. We went to Memphis and wanted to visit Ardent. But you can't really show up. We said, "Well, it's possible we'll want to record there." We called and the person on the phone said, "It's possible Jody will be here to show you around."

We went there and it was so nice. We did three "The Cat That Can Be Alone", "Sun In My Morning, and "Tenderly". Vibe-y songs recorded in a vibe-y place.

Jody is such an interesting guy. We had an interview scheduled a while back and he called me direct to confirm it rather than having the publicist do that via email.

He's the nicest person and one of the first things you notice about him is that he has the most beautiful eyelashes! We had a great time down there.

Do you remember the first song you wrote for the album?

It was one I wrote in 2010, "Cassandra". It's about Miranda Lambert. I'm a huge, unabashed country music fan. I saw her early in her career and she blew me away.

Is country something you were brought up with?

I grew up in L.A. and was obsessed with the country sounds. I went from Linda Ronstadt to Emmylou Harris. Emmylou was where I fell for country. Country music radio today has gotten very bro-y. I wade through five man songs to get to a woman song.

Did you watch the Ken Burns documentary?

I haven't because I'm afraid that I'll see things that are missing and be disappointed.

It misses some things but he did touch on Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. It was powerful to see what an impact they had.

That's why Dolly is back now and so popular all of a sudden, because she was always on the right side of things. She was always kind and forward-thinking.

You wrote about Anita O' Day and Miranda Lambert. Is that typical of you?

The first two records were young person solipsism. Partly because I was having trouble writing songs for this album, I thought maybe I'd look outside myself. Other writers seem to be able to do that.

What was your process for sequencing this album?

I'm not super into it. My husband/bassist/co-producer is really good at it. When I do live shows he and Sue do the setlists.

Left to my own devices, I'll put all the songs that sound alike together. There were some things about the record I wasn't sure about, like the second part of the record seems more country, less rock.

I loved going on that journey.

It works.

Now that this is done, how does it feel?

I'm proud of it. I'm a small part of it. All my friends who helped are a big part and this is probably the thing I'm proudest of.

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