Though Angie Wells’ passion for music began at five when Count Basie played for her kindergarten class, she didn’t start coming into her own as a powerhouse soul-jazz singer/songwriter and vocal interpreter until after she sat in with a trio at a Paris supper club and essentially owned the room. Even before emerging as a recording artist with Love and Mischief (2017), she built her reputation holding court in L.A. and at festivals throughout the U.S. and France.
One of her original compositions even hit French radio earned her a semi-finalist spot in the first annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. Though the rousing big band arrangement and witty narrative of “There’s Always Time for Love,” the opening track to her second album Truth Be Told, may set her listeners up for a good ol’ carefree romantic time, the impetus for the album comes from a darker place. Though devastated as many of us were by the brutal murder of George Floyd in 2020, Wells felt a glimmer of hope seeing people from so many different backgrounds come together in protest and support.
Out for a drive a few days later, a melody rose from inside and developed into the traditional, hymn-like “Truth Be Told,” a hard-hitting slice of social consciousness (with a no holds barred narrative and finger snap percussion) that became the foundation of Wells’ multi-faceted album. While applying the soulful, equally intimate/sensual and emotionally powerful strut of her vocals to reworkings of cross-genre classics “Accentuate the Positive,” “Here’s to Life,” “Moanin’/Work Song,” “Nick of Time,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and Nina Simone’s smoky, simmering “Do I Move You,” Wells also includes a few other crafty and lyrically pointed originals, most notably, “Where the Livin’ is Good” and “Talkin’ All Under My Clothes.
Spiritually, she grounds everything in a unique homage to the faith of her ancestors, particularly her great grandmother, which inspires her to this day. Amidst all the jazz and soul coolness, she features four distinct interludes of the gospel standard “I’ve Got A Feeling – including one featuring her humming the tune, another with an uplifting vocal/big band vibe and, in total contrast, a heartbreaking instrumental showcasing the album’s two arrangers, John Clayton (on arco bass) and Josh Nelson (on piano).