If you are new to the work of New England born-Seattle based singer-songwriter Anna Coogan, this latest project titled ‘The Nowhere, Rome Sessions’ is sufficiently packaged to allow you to experience her soothing vocals and appreciate how well she blends the country/folk sound into the songs she writes and interprets. Alternatively if you are an established admirer of this talented artist, the stripped down minimalist approach she has taken to re-working a number of these existing songs, along with the chemistry emanating from her musical partnership with Italian guitarist Daniele Fiaschi, has certainly added value to the body of her work. Eight of the nine tracks on the album were recorded during a session over the Easter weekend in the eternal city and the dedication to capture the moment with limited technical assistance was rewarded with a delightful finished product.With two albums under her belt since deciding to record solo a number of years ago, Anna elected to re-record ‘A Little Less Each Day’ and ‘Streamers’ from her most recent release ‘The Wasted Ocean’ which received rave reviews when launched in the UK last year. Also, from her debut solo album, ‘The Nocturnal Amongst Us’, the tracks ‘Crooked Sea’ and ‘Back to the World’ were lifted and given the Daniele Fiaschi master guitar touch. However the real strength of this album is in three previously unreleased songs that, while possessing the Anna Coogan trademark, have a special quality that proved extra pleasing to the ear. The album opener ‘Indian Son’ sets the scene perfectly for the upcoming 45 minute chill out session, while the country flavoured ‘Red Shoes, Black Dress’ with a sublime tender steel sound in the background is probably the record’s finest track. Anna’s gratifying vocals slightly tilt in a classical direction (she is a trained opera singer) with ‘How Will You Find Me?’ and instant comparisons were drawn with fellow US singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche.
The final two tracks are both cover versions with Gordon Lightfoot’s classic account of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ appearing first. Anna’s interpretation of this song compares well alongside the version Laura Cantrell recorded on her transport-themed album a few years back. To close the record, Anna chose to include a nine minute cover of Phi Ochs ‘The Crucifixion’, which was recorded live during a show in Holland. On this track, we experience a rawer side to her vocal range and it’s very much delivered in a folk style. Despite the length of the song, your attention is held consistently with the aid of incisive lyrics and emotive delivery. The applause you hear at the end could almost be for the entire sessions rather than that specific song.The good news is that Anna and Daniele are returning to the UK this autumn to hopefully re-create the experience from these sessions in a number of intimate venues around the country. Catching one of these shows is highly recommended, better still acquire ‘The Nowhere, Rome Sessions’ album either as an aperitif or as a consolation if you are unable to see them.