Friday, October 16, 2009
CD Review: Vicky Mountain & James Allen: Sincerely Yours
Vocalist and MacPhail educator Vicky Mountain’s new CD, Sincerely Yours (2009), is a pleasure from start to end. Her voice—which ranges from sultry chanteuse to little girl, bluesy mama to playful tease—is in fine form, her landings sure-footed, her articulation pristine (one of the things I especially enjoy about her singing), her song choices eclectic and enjoyable. Where else can you find “Willow Weep for Me” side-by-side with “Love Potion #9”?
She scats smartly in all the right places (on the Illinois Jacquet/James Mundy tune “Don’cha Go 'Way Mad” and the Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn standard “Love Me or Leave Me”), sings her own lyrics to Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” (renamed “Jitterbug Fantasy”) and gives it a music-hall ending, infuses “Love Me or Leave Me” with a fresh sense of urgency, and fills the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer fave “I Thought About You” with joyous anticipation instead of the usual regret. No worries; these lovers will meet again soon.
Throughout, her background in theater shows: each song is a story, convincingly told. Each has its own mood and emotional setting. And she gives us her full voice, from lush low notes to sweet high ones.
For accompaniment, she chose one man and one instrument. MacPhail colleague James Allen’s guitar is a full partner to Mountain’s voice. He brings skill, sensitivity, and wit to the table; for the R&B classic “Unchain My Heart” (think Ray Charles), Allen frames the tune with bassist Jack Bruce’s famous riff from the Cream song “Sunshine of Your Love.” Clever and utterly unexpected.
It’s just the two of them on all but a single track, “When Your Lover Has Gone,” when they add Graydon Peterson on bass (and give him room to stretch out on a solo). Voice and guitar add up to a warm and intimate recording, one you can get close to and take personally.
A sampling of Mountain’s lyrics for “Jitterbug Fantasy”:
A look, a turn, a phrase, a crooked smile, a certain way of walking
and I think it’s you
but no, you’re just a fantasy
A joke you tell, the quiet laugh, a wink, the way you wear your hairdo
and I think, it must be you,
but it’s just my fantasy
And when I’m out I follow strangers down the street
I wait on corners thinking that it’s you I’ll meet
I never do, and all I get are sore feet
Oh, where are you in my fantasy?
And this choice couplet:
It’s getting hard to tell the real from the un
And you know I’m not having any fun….
The CD release is tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Sage Wine Bar in Mendota Heights. Sincerely Yours is not yet available on CD Baby, but her previous recording, Don’t Go to Strangers (2005), is, so check back there if you don’t find Sincerely Yours at the Fetus.
Photo from Vicky Mountain's website