Raised on America’s east coast with her poet mother and folk-singing grandfather before moving to Los Angeles, Wimmer’s been based in Switzerland for several years, although Bookmark, her fourth album and the first in six years, was primarily recorded in Lichtenstein and Austria, co produced by Billy Watts from the Mojo Monkeys, who also provides guitar, and featuring bassists Rodrigo Aravena and Taras Prodaniuk, drummer David Raven and multi instrumentalist Dänu Wisler with Suzie Candell on harmonies.
Stylistically, this is a relatively bluesy album, although it opens in dreamier shape with the title track’s reverie, Watts adding electric guitar and bass to Wimmer’s acoustic on a celebration of a perfect relationship served up in musical metaphors. The blues kick in though on the uptempo 70s AM boogie rhythm of ‘Loosen My Grip’, Taras Prodaniuk laying down the basslines on a number basically about getting loose, letting go of the bad and going with the groove that offers up the wisdom to “keep your eye on the sweet donut, not on the hole.”
Likewise, even if the lyrics concern moving on and not crying years over a bad love, the lazing mid-tempo ballad ‘Louisiana’ also evokes thoughts of that same mellow rock era and artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Wendy Waldman and Maria Muldaur.
There’s a folksier, more acoustic air to ‘Mahogany Hawk’, an airy waltz through Laurel Canyon soundscapes with hints of Joni that, in its theme and nature imagery, also echoes the era’s disdain for consumerism and commerciality and the desire to fly free of society like the lyrics’ ‘avian saint’.
Autobiographical notes sound on the Texicali coloured ‘Mexico’, Wisler providing dobro and Watts taking the acoustic solo on a suitably warm rolling rhythm and sway as she sings about moving from California to marry a man from Switzerland, but annually returning to melt winter sorrows dancing in the sun.
Strumming acoustic with Watts sliding in the pedal steel, ‘Pretty Good’ sounds another anti-materialistic note on a song that celebrates those that try and perhaps fall short rather than those who succeed and lose touch, a countrified rolling rhythm backdropping the call to do your best at what you do and to bring a glow to the vibe in your neighbourhood backyard.
Breathily but powerfully sung and again in classic soulful AM mode with resonant guitar from Watts, ‘Simplicity Of A Man’ is a near six-minute poignant love song that, unusually in a world that can often have a cynical arch-feminist perspective on men, looks inside the soul and finds a tenderness within. It opens on the image of an elderly widower mourning his bride of 52 years, continuing with a young philosopher rendered speechless on the birth of his child before narrowing the focus to a more personal, intimate understanding of how the male of the species may not always articulate their love, but this doesn’t mean they don’t feel it.
The final stretch begins with the album’s sole cover, Wimmer’s voice soaring on a gently faithful take of Bowie’s ‘Starman’ complete with la la chorus and handclaps finale before heading into ‘The Last Part’, a slow watltz dreamy ballad love song that can be best summed up in the line from Jerry Maguire, “you complete me”. It ends on another upbeat note with ‘We Can Do This’, an all acoustic percussion-free track featuring mandolin and lap steel that for some reason reminds me of Lesley Duncan’s ‘Love Song’ about how, while there may be storms to weather and it may sometimes take the scenic route, love is always worth trying to hold together.
A bookmark is defined as a something than enables you to return to or remember a place or a time with ease; this album will make you want to do both.
Artist’s website: www.bethwimmer.com
‘Bookmark’ – live: