Rebecca Zapen’s latest album Nest is as delicate as a newborn, not only in sound but in subject. The album is filled with varied instrumentation and genres where strings and horns (and the ukulele’s South American cousin the Cavaquino) mix with finger-picked folk and cinematic vocal harmonies. Thematically, the album is about Zapen building a nest of her own and was recorded while she was pregnant with Joel, her now two-year-old son with husband and fellow musician, Jeremy Douglass.
Born into a music-making family in Jacksonville, Florida, Zapen’s earliest memories are of sitting beneath the grand piano while her mother practiced Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. All grown up, Zapen attended Florida State University on a music scholarship, filling her college years with opera, chamber music, and late night jazz jams. Later expanding her repertoire to include swing, classical, klezmer, country, folk, rock, and spoken word, Zapen’s current sound is an accomplished combination of these influences that gets in your head and doesn’t leave.
Little Joel probably learned a lot about music in the womb, giving him a jump on Mom who began her own classical training on violin at the age of three. It’s her lifelong dedication to musical technique and the wonder by which she practices it that makes Zapen’s music so appealing. Like a birth, Nest is an arrival at a more solidly focused sound for Zapen after several releases that tried out different musical approaches. Like the albums of folk music greats, Nest contains a spirit that is simple but complex, appealing universally while being intensely personal.
The record often sounds like a lullaby and not the kind that starts you dreaming, but one that you can only hear when you’re already sleeping. It’s a lilting, crooning counterpoint to Beck’s Sea Change where characters come together (mostly, anyway - see the heartbreaker single “Lakewood”) instead of fall apart. Other notable tracks include the stark Appalachian twang of “Colorado,” arranged with only violin and vocals (uncharacteristically belted this time), and the cinematic “You Did Me Wrong” which incorporates folk, pop and jazz into one tune.
There’s even a cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” on Nest. Zapen’s love of jazz, and especially bossa nova, comes out in her version of the Palmer hit, taking it to a brand new place. Zapen ignores all the typical cues one might take when covering the tune. It’s a truly unique spin that stands on its own without being cheeky. Given the context of the album’s theme, the song is given a different, maybe even deeper, meaning as well.
Rebecca Zapen’s Nest is now available nationwide on her own Bashert (Yiddish for “fate”) label. The record has already been awarded the distinction of “Florida Album of The Year” by the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville and Zapen’s local performances there have become sold-out, standing-room-only events. Zapen is now is making room for everybody, with the promotion of Nest expanding to include the rest of the country.
"Nothing adequately prepares for the way in which her deeply personal album instantaneously envelops and never loses its grip... One of those near-perfect hidden gems..." - Relix
"...Zapen will lure you with sleepy, laid-back vocals and creative instrumentation." - Performing Songwriter
"Zapen not only writes great songs and sings them well, but she also has real arrangement talents..." - Tape Op
“Nest is a deeply personal CD, pulling at your collar and tugging at your sleeves long after the first play." - Florida Album of the Year, Florida Times-Union
“...ukulele-shredder Rebecca Zapen has taken the art of settling down to new heights with her latest album, the aptly titled Nest.” - Folio Weekly