It’s a quirk of the music industry that one of the sexiest, most sensual voices in all of pop music comes not from some raven-tressed siren in a glitter-dress but a middle-aged woman with a utility haircut and a penchant for male tailoring.
Fifteen years have passed since Ingénue launched Kathryn Dawn Lang as an international star and Canada’s leading lady
of lesbianism. Her clear, pure tones, unadorned with vibrato, melodrama and other Mariah Carey-isms have floated through country, pop and swoonsome balladry. However, recent studio albums have collated tasteful cover versions and lang talked of writer’s block.
All that ends with Watershed, a seductive restatement of her talents. As the title implies, this first self-penned set for eight years is all about lang, 46, taking stock. “My very nature is to criticise, to cut myself down to size,” she sings in Flame of the Uninspired. “Does the taste for truth disappear with youth?” she wonders on the similarly introspective Shadow and the Frame, while Je fais la planche touches on her newfound interest in Buddhism as she muses on what reality means.
But this is not mid-life crisis territory. The overall mood reflects a hard-won contentment. Career-wise, Lang says that she has resolved to mature into a grand old trouper like Ella Fitzgerald or Peggy Lee.
Domestically, after several doomed affairs, the singer is living happily with the woman she calls “the wife”. I Dream of Spring is about the sudden thrill of love, and Coming Home tells of discovering a soulmate and finding your own true nature.
Lang weaves her tales over pared-down arrangements – acoustic guitars, muted keyboards and discreet percussion augmented now and then by silky strings. This is her first self-produced album, with some tracks recorded at home, often in one take. There is nothing slipshod about the results, simply the sound of a woman who knows what she wants to convey. Stylistically, every era of Lang’s career – from cowpoke to torch singer – informs Watershed, a set that marks the return of a singular talent to the top of her game.