Rufus’ background player is the real deal
Performing songwriters don’t typically debut in their mid 30s, but that’s Joan Wasser’s story. The violinist/keyboardist/vocalist has been the consummate background player for more than a decade, with credits stretching from Boston’s Dambuilders to recent gigs with Rufus Wainwright and Antony & the Johnsons. On To Survive, her second release under the moniker Joan As Police Woman, she casts the same torchy, seductive, chamber-pop spell that made her debut Real Life such a pleasure, only doing it even more effectively this time, eschewing electric-violin workouts like Real Life’s “Christobel” for calmer, more beautiful enchantments. While To Survive was written as Wasser’s mother passed away, the mood is redemptive and hopeful, with lyrics more notable for heart-wrenching vulnerability than clever turns of phrase. The album closes with “To America,” a slowly building duet with Rufus Wainwright, who could soon be eclipsed by his supporting player if he doesn’t step up his game.