Tag Archives: Fawn Fritzen

Lissy Walker – Wonderland

Lissy Walker - Wonderland CoverLissy Walker – Wonderland
Released – September 23, 2014

As intimate as a whisper in your ear, Lissy Walker’s “Wonderland” is a sweetly swinging charmer, delivering on the early 20th century mood the publicicist’s pen promises.

Admittedly a muddler of genres, Ms. Walker manages to sound country one moment, modern alt-something the next. But hard to put into a box also means unique, right down to the choice of tunes on this disc – from 1918’s melancholy “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” to 1970s folk-rock “I Wish I Was A Fool For You,” written by Richard Thompson, a restrained arrangement that fits the lyric much better than the over-produced version Sandy Denny delivered in 1977.

Alternately, there’s nothing at all restrained about Ms. Walker’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?),” which reveals Ms. Walker’s theatrical background through a display of longing that could leave you wanting a cigarette when it’s over.

Lissy Walker - Photo by Anne HamerskyThat’s one of my favorites from this set – along with “Isn’t It Romantic?” the Rodgers and Hart classic, once called “…the perfect song,” which opens with just the backing of Scott Nygaard on guitar, and then builds with strings to a bigger finish.  Backing musicians are all first rate – in addition to Mr. Nygaard, Jon Evans on bass, Steven Bernstein on trumpet and John R. Burr on piano.

They’re joined by guest artists Carla Kihlstedt on violin and Ben Goldberg on clarinet.  At times, as good as they all are, the recording mix can nearly overpower Ms. Walker’s delicate voice.  I would have turned ‘em down a little.

But that’s a small quibble with this hand-crafted work of art, a fine addition to any collection of jazz vocalists, and is very highly recommended.

62nd LogoAdded to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com – both “Isn’t It Romantic,” and “Lover Man.”

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Last year, I raved about Fawn Fritzen, the Canadian singer whose debut album, “Bedroom Voice,” had me swooning.  She’s now produced a video of one of the best tracks from that collection – the original “I’m A Fool For You.”  Enjoy.

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Fawn Fritzen – Bedroom Voice

I’ve got to admit, first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this album was a flashback to Mom talking about my “outdoor voice” and my “indoor voice.” As a child, I never learned about a “bedroom voice,” even from Dad’s talks about birds and bees.  That came later.

On a different topic altogether, what Dad did say was that sometimes to command attention, you need to speak softly.


Fawn Fritzen - Bedroom VoiceFawn Fritzen – Bedroom Voice
Released – March 26, 2013

This is a gentle recording, but it demands active listening. And because of that, I quickly came to appreciate the porcelain nature of Fawn Fritzen’s voice, full of subtle blues and honeyed desires. Of the title, Fawn Fritzen writes, “To me, it says quiet, sultry, and sensual. It speaks of love, perhaps of longing, perhaps loss. It speaks of emotion, deeply felt, but whispered.”

Four originals mingle well with six cover tunes here – nicely handcrafted, all of them. My favorite of the four is “I’m A Fool For You,” with hints of Crystal Gayle, especially when the stops get pulled out for the (relatively) big finish. Another favorite is the smoldering original “Under My Skin,” and its age old story of two loves and longing. The original “Life So Sweet” was an entry in CBC’s “Searchlight” competition for new Canadian talent.

Photo by Christian KuntzA nearly gospel version of Leonard Cohen’s prayerful “If It Be Your Will” also attracts my attention, and I found myself looking forward to the gossamer version of “The Gentle Rain,” performed in both English and impeccable German when it came around in the rotation.

A word about Daniel Janke, who co-produces the album, and performs in nearly all the tracks, on piano, organ and upright bass. He manages to thread the needle – and is both noticed and admired by perfectly framing Ms. Fritzen’s flawless performance.

Ms. Fritzen hails from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – where, in the winter, the average temperature at night is well below zero.

Except, perhaps, in the Fritzen household. Fawn is using her bedroom voice.

Highest recommenation for this outstanding debut.

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Paula Cole is one of those artists whose work refuses to be classified. Is it folk? Is it jazz? Country? Doesn’t matter. It’s mostly all good. She raised $50K in a Kickstarter campaign last fall, in order to produce a new album (“Raven”) in a way that pleases only her.

And if this track is any indication, plenty of us, too. Release date is April 23.

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Madeleine Peyroux – The Blue Room

Modern Sounds in Country and Western MusicIn MusicHound’s “Essential Album Guide to Martini Music and Easy Listening,” Daniel Durchholz writes about Ray Charles, and his “…seemingly depthless capacity for heartache, and for his deftly intuitive ideas, which find him mining influences as varied as Count Basie and Hank Williams, and turning the result into works of staggering originality.”

I wasn’t even a tween when Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” was released in 1962; yet I haunted the record bins even then, and somehow knew that Ray Charles and Country and Western music were two ideas that didn’t fit together.

Until they did. Boy, was that a lesson.


Madeleine Peyroux - The Blue RoomMadeleine Peyroux – the Blue Room
(Decca)

Released – March 5, 2013

Like everyone else, or perhaps because of everyone else, I keep trying to compare Madeleine Peyroux to Billie Holiday. That voice – that beguiling voice – keeps telling me that she’s channeling Billie’s blues, that I just need to listen long enough, and I’ll hear it.

But while I can find a track or two that make the mix on the ‘pod, mostly I’ve been disappointed.

Until now.

Larry Klein produces for Ms. Peyroux, and the publicity propaganda says, “The Blue Room started life as Klein’s re-examination of Ray Charles’s 1962 classic “Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music,” but soon moved away from being strictly an homage to that album.”

But five of the best from Mr. Charles’ songbook are on display here – none better than “Take These Chains From My Heart,” morphed into a lilting, but demanding interpretation; and “Born To Lose,” truer to the original, and with a haunting turn on trumpet by John “Scrapper” Sneider.

While we’re talking credits, Vince Mendoza provides the right countrypolitan string arrangements, and Larry Goldings works with Mr. Mendoza on keyboards to keep the dreamy velvet texture throughout.

Promotional Photo by Mary Ellen MarkThe five from that seminal Ray Charles work are joined with five others as varied as Randy Newman (“Guilty,”) Warren Zevon (“Desperadoes Under The Eaves,”) and John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind.” That one is particularly charming to me. The insistent beat of the Glen Campbell or Hartford versions is still there, way in the background. But Ms. Peyroux takes her own pace through the tune.

She takes her own pace through the whole album, far and away her best effort yet. For me, at least, it seems proof that given enough time, I’ll see the same genius in some performers as everyone else. I just needed to stop thinking Billie Holiday.

And start thinking Ray Charles.

Highest Recommendation.

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Fawn Fritzen promo photo by Christian KuntzI can’t remember who reached out to whom, but Fawn Fritzen and I are Facebook pals, and maybe linked on LinkedIn and Twitter, too.  From Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Ms. Fritzen has been keeping warm this winter working on an album (“Bedroom Voice”) due out next week, which she swears isn’t nearly as suggestive as the title.

CBC has a competition for new Canadian music called “Searchlight”, and Ms. Fritzen is in the regional top five, and we’re going to help.

Canadian citizenship isn’t required, just lift an imaginary Molson or Labatt, and click at the link.  I’ve voted.  You should, too.

Although it’s not the song in the competition, Ms. Fritzen’s original “Fool For You” is my personal favorite.  And since it’s my blog, I get to pick my own winner.

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