The first Heart single to feature Nancy Wilson on lead vocals was “These Dreams,” with an iconic video that featured the guitarist and her sister Ann with peak Eighties hair, silk blazers, fog, and some more hair. But flash-forward to the present — with all that glam preserved on a high shelf like a can of hairspray collecting dust — and the song still holds up, particularly when Wilson performs it on acoustic with her husky vocals. Every second of the night, she’s lived another life.
Wilson carries this well-worn wisdom into her solo debut, You and Me. As her decision to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” hints at, You and Me arrives as a healing of sorts, after more than a year of isolation and social upheaval in our country. Best of all, it was unplanned, so the record lacks the kind of “This is a pandemic gift to fans” sentiment and has more of a “stay-at-home-rocker-gets-creative” authenticity. “I’m not going to sit here and do a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle,” Wilson said, making the rest of us feel lazy.
You and Me is bookended with tender tributes — the opening title track is for her mother (co-written by longtime collaborator Sue Ennis), while the closer “4 Edward” is an aching acoustic send-off to Eddie Van Halen. In between we get a sprinkling of elite guests, from Sammy Hagar on a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” to the dizzying highlight “Party at the Angel Ballroom” with Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses. Then there’s “Daughter” (yes, the Pearl Jam song), which feels unfathomably great when she screams, “She will … rise above!”
At times, the amount of covers on You and Me can feel a bit overwhelming — the need for a rendition of the Cranberries’ “Dreams” is questionable — but Wilson balances it out with her own gems. “The Dragon,” written for Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley in the Nineties, is a gritty slow-burner that’s ripened with age, while “The Inbetween” has a whimsical opening reminiscent of Harry Nilsson’s “Turn On Your Radio.” Decades into her career, the guitarist proves that her legacy is still being made — one puzzle piece after the next.