Article By: Jennie Walker
Zoë Wren is a unique voice in today’s music scene. She tells a story in each song through varying vocals – both high and low, strong and soft, it’s a sound one feels could belong next to them at a campfire or on a stage singing to thousands. Zoë has such a natural warmth in her voice that it’s easy to go from one storytelling song to the next without tiring of the sound, but that doesn’t mean every song is made equal in my eyes. Here are my top six to listen to, because I honestly couldn’t choose just five:
6: Tale of an Oak Tree
The only reason that this song is placed last on the list is because the melody doesn’t bewitch me like the others. Still, lyrically, it’s a sad tale of deforestation and loss from the point of view of an oak tree and the innocent bird that lived in it.
5: Pandora’s Box
The picked guitar playing in this song is simply gorgeous to me. From the point of view of the trouble contained within Pandora’s Box, the song is a point blank, facts told style narrative of the trouble that was released when the box was opened. I love the way her voice rises and falls in the chorus, and the somber tone of the song as the box sits helpless to stop anyone from opening it.
4: If I Had A Voice
Like Zoë’s other songs, this one is a well told story, but expressed more as a confessional diary entry rather than a tale passed from generation to generation. In this song sits a woman who is explainer her present rather than her past. Other songs may be sad – “Tale of an Oak Tree” – and others may be told from a first person narrative – “Gold and Smoke” – but neither of them tug at the heart strings quite like this one. “I’ve been written out of my own song,” is a line that most people can identify with at one point or another, and the hurt and resignation that comes from “If I had a voice, I’d give you a piece of my mind” leaves the listener feeling just as isolated and broken as the protagonist.
3: Gold and Smoke
The first of Zoë’s songs I fell in love with, “Gold and Smoke” carries the confidence of a woman who is greeted with constant success while telling the story of the so called “King of the Gamblers.” It carries the feeling of someone who has the attention of the room as they tell their story in whatever town they’re passing through. The opening line, “I have coins in my pocket, good sense in my head; if you think that I need much else your poor soul’s been misled,” sets the listener up for a wondrous tale of the rich vagabond who loves the life they lead. With a chorus of “Gold and Smoke is my romance tonight,” how could you not wish to join the storyteller on their ventures?
2: 45 Fever
45 Fever is just fun. The catchy rhythm of the guitar strum, the vocal slide on “newspapers,” the shift to a more staccato song style in the chorus, the periodic background vocals… there are so many things that make this song stand out in Zoë’s catalogue. I’m not particularly passionate about the sudden addition of the shaker during the chorus, but it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of this song, and like all of Zoë’s music, it tells a great tale of a “delusional man who thinks he’s a cowboy” – her words, not mine.
1: She’s a Highwayman
This is the most straightforward story of them all, and if tale sounds slightly familiar, that’s because it’s a different take on the old folk song “The Female Highwayman”/”The Lady Turned Highwayman”. The original song ends after ‘Silvie’ robs her love to test his loyalty, but Zoë’s take looks inside the mind of the protagonist and considers what happened after she got a taste of freedom. The melody varies much more than the original folk song, but the straightforward pairing of vocals and guitar keeps the folk feel alive. The uplifting tone of the song matches the lyrics perfectly, and the song very much deserves its spot as the most played song of Zoë’s on Spotify – and its spot at the top of this list.