The dictionary defines “watershed” as a turning point and also as the demarcation of high ground. In the case of lang’s latest, both apply. Lang’s first album of original material since 2000’s Invincible Summer is also her overall finest to date. Channeling all her past musical personalities—the twangy, Cline-inspired cowgirl of Angel with a Lariat, the torch singer of Drag and Ingénue, the savvy pop architect of Hymns of the 49th Parallel, the smooth jazz chanteuse of A Wonderful World—Watershed offers no space for slackers.
Lang produced the album, wrote all 11 songs and, in addition to handling the vocals, plays guitar, keyboards, percussion and banjo. Her two principal accompanists, David Piltch and Teddy Borowiecki, are kept equally busy, with Piltch alternating among guitar, acoustic and electric bass, drums and percussion and Borowiecki handling keyboards, organ, vibes and drum programming, plus arranging and conducting the strings. Never has lang sounded so utterly relaxed, so full of not just self-confidence but also self-respect. Each note, each phrase, each mellow passage, echoes heartfelt contentment, both personal and professional. Extending from the dreamy languor of “Sunday” and tart romantic satisfaction of “Once In a While” to the knowing wit of “Flame of the Uninspired” and sagacious playfulness of “Jealous Dog,” the songwriting is uniformly superb. But it is the sweet-flowing “Coming Home,” with its Buddhist roots, carefree romantic satisfaction and softly powerful sense of hard-won enlightenment that is the Hope among these diamonds.