A solo career is born
From the Summer 2003 issue.
Love Goes On
By Andrea Zonn
Compass Records: 2003
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
You don't know her by name, but undoubtedly you've heard Andrea Zonn's fiddle and voice. Zonn, one of Nashville's most in-demand fiddle players and backing vocalists, has recorded and toured with such A-listers as Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Pam Tillis, George Jones, Trisha Yearwood and Allison Krauss. But she takes the first steps of her solo career path with her first release, "Love Goes On," on Compass Records.
Virtually everyone in Tennessee knows Zonn plays a mean fiddle, but what is most compelling about this record is her angelic voice and strong, mature musical sensibilities. Far from being just some vanity project, this collection will go a long way in establishing Zonn as an artist in her own right. The fiddlin' may bring ya, but it's the singin' that'll keep ya.
Two years in the making, "Love Goes On" is a subtle work that improves with each listen. A sweet, assured debut, the self-produced project consists of smart, pensive, contemporary songs from several prominent songwriters and not just from Nashville. Zonn isn't a writer, but she has good taste and puts her own sweet spin on such songs as "If He's Ever Near" from veteran California singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff. Zonn also expresses an affinity for quirky acoustic pop with the inclusion of Crowded House's "Weather With You."
My personal favorites, though, are the hauntingly pretty title cut (Paul Brady's "Love Goes On"), the rousing "New Night Dawning," and "In My Own Backyard," a terrific tune from Chapin Hartford and Harry Stinson that I first heard Zonn sing live at a recent Vince Gill show. Zonn has been a member of Gill's touring band for more than a decade, and the ever-generous Gill, who's thankfully retained a musician's sensibility amid the platitudes and platinum, is happy to let her shine during his gigs.
Recently, Gill also told Zonn it was OK is she left his tour and accept an offer to head out on the late summer-fall James Taylor tour, something she's very excited about. No word yet on whether J.T. will give Zonn the same solo spotlight on his tour, but clearly she's in high demand.
It takes a hit to become a star, though, and for better or worse, nothing on "Love Goes On" immediately jumps out as a breakthrough radio song. I don't hear a tune that will indelibly be associated with the artist the way "The Lucky One" is for Allison Krauss, for example. It's a fine piece of work nonetheless, a gently woven tapestry of bluegrass, country, Celtic, '70s singer-songwriter rock and contemporary folk. And despite the lack of a standout smash, radio is evidently responding. "New Night Dawning" is getting some attention from bluegrass radio programmers, and "Weather With You" is getting airplay on AAA stations.
It's no surprise that Zonn, whose diverse musical influences come through soft and clear here, has music in her blood. Her father, Paul Martin Zonn, was a music professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was also a great clarinetist and jazz pianist. Her mother is a world-class oboist and pianist, and her younger brother, Brian, is a bass player.
Zonn started studying classical violin by age 5, but soon embraced bluegrass and country music when she became frustrated with the limitations of classical violin. She began competing in fiddle contests, where she met and befriended Krauss. They became close childhood friends and have remained so through the years.
Indeed, if there's one artist to whom Zonn can best be compared, it's her oldest friend, Krauss. Both have bluegrass souls and positively ethereal singing voices, and both have been wowing audiences with their fiddle virtuosity since they were munchkins. The difference, of course, is that while Krauss and her Union Station co-horts are now enjoying chart success on Rounder Records, Zonn is just laying the stepping stones of her star path on Compass.
Ideally, in the not-so distant future Zonn will be fronting her own band. Meantime, watch her ascent. Keep an eye out for her on the James Taylor tour. And if you like bluegrass, folk, Celtic, country or '70s acoustic singer-songwriters, go get the record. If you don't, then why on earth are you still reading this?
Review by Jamie Reno. Jamie is a writer living in San Diego, Calif.