BY MARIANA GARRICK
Guitarist Nancy Wilson from the band Heart just made her solo debut with the release of her new album, You and Me. Recorded primarily in her California home studio during quarantine, she worked remotely to create the rocking 12-track album with special guests including Sammy Hagar along with Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters.
Wilson’s debut includes eight original tracks that are mostly acoustic ballads, with the remainder of the songs covers from her favorite bands. After almost 50 years in the music industry, Wilson’s wisdom and husky vocals invite listeners to follow her on a journey away from Heart, and instead, as an independent recording artist.
The opening title track, “You and Me,” features longtime collaborator Sue Ennis. Ennis co-wrote numerous Heart songs alongside Wilson and her sister, Ann. Wilson wrote the song for her mother, who she described as her “muse and strength” in a recent Twitter post. Next in line is Bruce Springteen’s “The Rising,” which overlays her acoustic guitar with a ground-laying distortion. Following the wispy ending of Springteen’s hit is a cover of Pearl Jam’s “Daughter,” uniquely offering a woman’s perspective. Wilson’s cover of the Pearl Jam song will be featured in the new Netflix film “I Am All Girls,” a motion picture about a global child sex trafficking ring in South Africa. Wilson reworked the song to empower the numerous victims depicted in the film’s dramatization of true events.
The next track, “Party at the Angel Ballroom,” features G’N’R’s McKagen and the Foo’s Hawkins. The thundering song transports listeners to a paradise where they can drink champagne with sinners and saints and “party like hell.” Hagar, a former lead singer with Van Halen, is featured on Wilson’s next cover song by Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer.” The cover isn’t too different from the original, as Wilson and Hagar’s voice are just as soothing as Simon & Garfunkel’s. Instead of the prominent piccolo trumpet that was used in the original 1965 version, Wilson included heavier drum beats in the background of her version of the song.
Liv Warfield of Prince’s New Power Generation and later, Roadcase Royale, a band formed by Wilson in 2016, assists in a heavenly cover of the Cranberries “Dreams.” Warfield’s background vocals can be heard throughout the song while adding more depth to Wilson’s in a perfect harmonious rendition of the 1993 hit. The song is a stark contrast to, “The Dragon,” a track written by Wilson in the ‘90’s. She revealed that the song is about late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley, and his slow death due to his battle with drug addiction. The Seattle rock icon never released the song to be part of a Heart album because she didn’t feel it fit their signature sound. Instead, it was first featured on Roadcase Royale’s 2017 album “First Things First” and now “You And Me.”
The album closes with a thoughtful track titled, “4 Edward.” The original instrumental by Wilson is dedicated to close friend Eddie Van Halen, who passed away in 2020 from cancer. The track’s instrumental coda is filled with messages of sorrow, hope and healing, as his death deeply affected Wilson at an already catastrophic time when the world was shut down.
Wilson has 16 albums under her belt with the band Heart, has sold over 35 million albums worldwide, and has four Grammy nominations. She had previously released the solo cd “Live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop” in 1999, which also featured her performing a combination of covers and new compositions. However, the Heart guitarist sees this as her first true solo record and as a positive creative step in the middle of a bizarre year of life under lockdown. Wilson’s covers offer a unique perspective, especially on “Daughter.” The remainder of tributes to some of her favorite bands allowed her to showcase different melodies, harmonies and creative twists by featuring other talented musicians.
Wilson’s solo debut granted her the freedom to get more personal and show a side of herself that no one’s ever seen before. The Heart guitarist exudes authenticity and transparency with her original songs on this album. During the pandemic’s first national lockdown, it’s evident that Wilson used her time to be creative while she healed and reflected on life, love and loss. You and Me is an indication that she is far from finished, and that there is yet a lot more to come.