Ann Wilson – The Ann Wilson Thing! #1 (review)

Ann Wilson Thing! – #1 (Rounder)

Heart’s vocalist digs a little deeper

Ann Wilson has been hitting nothing but home runs lately. Her jaw-dropping performance of “Stairway to Heaven” during the Kennedy Center Honors proved that no one could’ve delivered a better performance. Along with her sister, Nancy, their band Heart has released a string of recent studio albums which rank among the band’s very best. And recent tours, including one with Jason Bonham, proved that Heart is still a formidable live band. So, it makes sense that Wilson would seek out a new challenge. Hence, The Ann Wilson Thing #1, a new, 4-song EP.

Wilson is primarily known as a rock vocalist. Yet, a closer look at her career shows a multi-faceted performer (especially apparent on Heart’s fantastic box set, Strange Euphoria). The Ann Wilson Thing allows the singer to delve deeper into one of her early influences, the blues. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the lone original, the spine-chilling, slow burn blues of “Fool No More.” The track trades between Wilson’s clear, pleading vocal of a scorned woman, and slinky guitar licks from Craig Bartock.

On “Danger Zone,” Wilson is accompanied by just a Rhodes piano on this Ray Charles’ nugget. It’s purposely distorted, sounding like a vintage blues holler played through an old Victrola. One overlooked aspect of Wilson’s voice is her ability to impart soul, something she does reverently on a live version of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way.”

The most notable track is her juiced-up take on Buffalo Springfield’s hippie anthem, “For What It’s Worth.” Powered by pounding drums, thumping bass, and distorted guitar, the original melody is stripped away, leaving only the telling lyrics. Here, Wilson really does the impossible – taking a tired old baby boomer anthem, and re-fashioning it for the new millennium. There’s a paranoia here that was never fully realized in the original. Then, the entire track comes to an abrupt ending.

The EP is listed as Ann Wilson Thing #1, which insinuates that there is more of this to come (there’s already a lyric video for her excellent reading of the Stones’ “Sympathy For the Devil”).

While not a replacement for Heart, The Ann Wilson Thing has given the singer, and her fans, an opportunity to dig a little deeper. So far, the results have been fantastic. —Tony Peters