A Few Words About Rachael Price

Dad always said – any day you don’t learn something new is a day wasted.

It seems that I’m constantly running across vocalists who blow me away. Vocalists who have been around for a number of years, who have never caught my attention.

And yet – once I’m aware of them, I see them everywhere.

Lake Street Dive - Bad Self PortraitsI remarked a couple of weeks back about catching the group Lake Street Dive and their new album, “Bad Self Portraits” (Signature Sound Recordings, Released February 18, 2014) on the tail end of a Letterman show. I became smitten (musically speaking) with the lead singer – Rachael Price.

That meant, of course, that I needed to buy not only the Lake Street Dive compilation, but pretty much everything that Ms. Price has ever recorded. But more than that – once it’s on the radar, I notice them everywhere. On “Ellen” this week, and even as we watched “House of Cards” this weekend – I’m going “Oh, my – that’s her, singing the National Anthem at Camden Yard, while that scoundrel Frank Underwood gets ready to throw out the first pitch!

She sings Texas two-step, jazz, a little alt-something, and even gospel. Her work with the band runs from three chords and a hook pop to jazzy-funky-bluesy-soulful fun stuff. Point is – in a world where everything is starting to sound a little too Amy Winehouse-Adele-Alicia Keys, these guys are unique.

And taking a chance with that unique thing is what makes stars.

Rachael PriceMs. Price is easy to notice. She has an effortless sense of swing, and a unique vocal style that resembles another singer I’ve liked for a while – Sophie Milman. She’s also got an attitude, an edge that’s both innate, but also honed also by the original material she gets from her “Dive” band mate, bassist Bridget Kearney.

It’s all in heavy rotation on the personal radio. I may tire of this new musical infatuation, as I have from time to time with other artists. But that’s the fun part of new love, yes?

Check back in a few months. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be listening. My guess is that lots more people will be, too. This is some of the best stuff I’ve heard in some time, and should be the future of pop music.

You should see, though, what started it all for me…

Group WebsiteGroup FacebookMs. Price’s Website

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Libby York – Memoir

Photo by Sally Sheldon, Pink Caterpillar PhotographyOne of my guilty pleasures is sushi. An unexpected day off today led me to the local sushi palace, where typically – they’re playing appropriate Japanese music over the house speakers.

Today, they were playing what sounded very much like American standards, sung by a chantuse that was so familar, yet I couldn’t put my finger on the name.

The iPhone app “Shazam” came to the rescue, identifying the singer as Halie Loren, first noticed by me in 2009.

She hails from the US Northwest, but I’ve seen bins full of her discs in Narita, and she’s just back from a tour of Japan, where so many North American vocalists find enthusiastic audiences.

So hearing her sing in my local sushi bar turned out to be entirely appropriate. Clearly, they’re fans.

Libby York - MemoirLibby York – Memoir
Released – March 24, 2014

Ms. York’s official bio invites comparisons to Anita O’Day, Chris Connor and Rosemary Clooney. Valid, all – but mostly, Ms. York manages to be an outstanding Libby York.

Bringing Warren Vache and his horn along for the ride (and duets on “Put It There, Pal” and “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”), Ms. York keeps it mostly on the main street of American classics, but deftly shines up a couple of tunes – “When In Rome (I Do As The Romans Do)” and Donald Fagen’s “Walk Between The Raindrops,” that don’t get nearly enough attention.

Mr. Vache is joined by (full disclosure – Facebook pal) John DiMartino on piano, Russell Malone on guitar, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Greg Sergo. Each of this outstanding group gets ample chance to shine, as the solo riffs are many.

Photo by Linda SchwartzBut there can be only one star – and Ms. York delivers the goods, whether in quiet subtlety, light swing, or the playful duets. “You have to believe the lyric. You have to be present in the story of the song,” she says.

Hand-crafted in every respect, seamless in execution, it’s a joy to hear accomplished pros having fun.

This album is very highly recommended.

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It wouldn’t be fair to make the comparison in the review itself (the reference is, frankly, too obscure), but I also detected a touch of Alma Cogan in Ms. York’s voice. Ms. Cogan’s star burned brightly in the UK during the late 50s and early 60s. Known as “The Girl With The Laugh In Her Voice,” she died much too young of cancer in 1966.

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Barb Jungr – Hard Rain

The thing about Bob Dylan is that he puts the lyrics out there, and it’s up to you to feel it.

Or not.

He doesn’t much care.

Barb Jungr - Hard RainBarb Jungr – Hard Rain (Kristalyn)
Released (UK) – March 24, 2014
Released (US) – May 27, 2014

I’ve never met Barb Jungr. We’ve traded “hellos” on Facebook, where she’s one of the many pals with whom I have common interests and friends; but we’ve never shared a hug or handshake.

But here’s what I know about her, from that relationship that exists in the ether, and from her body of work. She’s a passionate woman – about peace, about the earth, about her art – but mostly, about her fellow humans.

And there’s plenty of emotion about the shared social condition in the work of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, even if it didn’t always come out in their vocal work.

For my money, Ms. Jungr is one of the best living tellers of Bob Dylan’s tales.

And that would include Mr. Dylan, himself.

In the liner notes, she says, “I knew from the start it was the tougher songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen I wanted to sing…the world they described and the actions they rejected and celebrated were of as much importance today as the day those songs were penned.”

Barb JungrMs. Jungr’s talent is beyond interpretation – it’s the immersion in the story being told. Listen to her sing “Blowin’ In The Wind,” and every other version will sound like what you sang around the campfire.

Simon Wallace mans the piano, joined by Neville Balcom and Steve Watts on bass, Gary Hammond on percussion, Clive Bell on shakahachi. Richard Olatunde Baker on talking drum.

It’s hard to find one of Ms. Jungr’s albums that doesn’t contain a piece of Dylan’s work.

Thank goodness. Highest recommendation.


Rachael PriceI’ve started making sure to record the last ten minutes of David Letterman before I feed my Craig Ferguson addiction each evening. That’s so I can catch the musical guests – like Rachael Price and Lake Street Dive, the band she fronts, with Michael Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, and Mike Olson.

Ms. Kearney is the brains behind my new favorite tune in heavy ‘pod rotation, “Bad Self Portraits,” from the album of the same name, released last month.


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Rozina Pátkai – Você e Eu

Rozina Pátkai - Você e EuRozina Pátkai – Você e Eu
Released – September 2013

If you look up the phrase “bossa nova,” along with the word “melancholy,” you get 14 million possibilities. And yet, I’d suggest that “melancholy” is perhaps the wrong word to describe the style. “Indifference, maybe?”

Rozina Pátkai – born in Budapest, Hungary, with Italian roots, embraces the genre with passion (well, as much as it will allow), first making the transition from classical music training: “I got a jazz album from my friend…where I heard such vocals and music that I had never heard before.”

And then to bossa nova as an exchange student in London: “I went to Portobello Road and bought bossa nova albums at the market…I stared to collect them and this is when I fell in love with this genre.”

So complex – this fusion of samba and jazz, yet Ms. Pátkai, winner of last year’s “Independent Music Awards Vox Pop Poll,” is able to convey so much, from plaintive to upbeat, within its narrow confines.

“Chega de Saudade,” translated alternately as “No More Blues,” or “Enough of Longing,” is one of my favorite tracks on this album. The song is generally considered one of the first bossa nova songs, traced back to the late 50s.

Many of the tracks are instantly recognizable – including the requisite “Garota De Ipanema,” and a Spanish “El Hombre Que Yo Ame” (“The Man I Love”), backed with strings from the RTQ String Quartet.

Mátyás Tóth on guitar and Balázs Pecze on trumpet and flugelhorn get some well-deserved showcase time. The rest of the quintet include Márton Soós on bass and Balázs Cseh on drums and percussion.

Rozina PátkaiMs. Pátkai cites Brazilian singer Rosa Passos as a major influence. Here in the US, perhaps the most famous bossa nova singer is Astrud Gilberto, she of “Girl From Ipanema” fame. Of Ms. Gilberto, critic Scott Yanow says, “…she went remarkably far with a limited voice, a trademark hit, and understated charisma.”

That sells the genre short, I think, which calls for passion within its boundaries. From Wikipedia: “…the word “bossa” is old-fashioned slang for something that is done with particular charm, natural flair or innate ability.”

Closer, I think.

So – is it melancholy, or indifference that makes a good bossa nova?

I think this needs further study. Highest recommendation for this gem.


Note: earlier version indicated Ms. Pátkai was “born in Italy.”  Not true.  She says, “Although, I wasn’t born in Italy, my grandparents are from Trieste (Italy) and my bio says that I am a ‘singer with Italian origins’, I was born in Budapest (capital of Hungary.)”

Correction noted, with thanks!

Never underestimate the popularity of country music, anywhere in the world.  A note from a publicist pal in the UK this week said, “Country/Americana duo Ward Thomas are revealing their brand new video today, so I just wanted to make sure you have it in front of you. They’re twins from Hampshire, with their heads very much in Nashville.”

Sucker that I am for good marketing, it was hard to resist the tagline the search turned up: “We’re country…just a different one.”

This is from an upcoming album – titled, “Footnotes.”

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