There’s a bit of a trend lately towards multiple covers of olde time blues and jazz. Not a bad ambition - to be sure - but with it comes the perilous danger that the end result will be like re-heated leftovers; not much like the original product, devoid of greatness and often having all the colour stripped away. (And this is a big disappointment when you were looking forward to something … Imagine: cardboardy frozen dinner instead of homemade bubbly mac and cheese with that nice crunchy topping. Just not the same, is it?)
I am pleased to report that the brand new CD from Shout Sister Shout Hit That Jive on M.C. Records just out this week has got everything right and indeed, simmers along independently right from the opening track. Nothing frozen or fake here - they are the real deal.
Hailing from Michigan, vocalist and songwriter Rachael Davis has combined her considerable talents with fellow vintage music enthusiasts, the intriguingly titled Steppin’ In It. Davis’ introduction and subsequent collaboration with the group was the delightful result of being on the same bill at a music event. Soon they had formed a quintet - Shout Sister Shout - to devote themselves to the music they were commonly drawn to and this stunning 14 track debut album was born.
Davis’ voice is the ideal vehicle to handle this kind of music – at times approaching the sweet purity of Ella herself. Her pitch and lyrical control can easily move a listener to tears.
Slow Down is the first track on the album and it’s a great choice – this is an infectious, swinging number with Davis’ vocals ringing out sweet and breathy. For those of you old enough to get the connection, it’s a sort of rockin’ Betty Boop delivery …
The band follows her tightly and intuitively contributing at all the right times. Excellent!
Moonlight in Vermont starts with an extended harmonica solo, yearning and heart felt. When the vocals do come in, they are floating right above the lyrics – barely there – and the effect is ethereal and beautiful.
Carolina Moon sees the band in a sort of Country and Western mode which would usually make me recoil but this is an old fashioned, best-kind-of c&w visit which puts us in mind of the band playing around the fireside with those plaintive, lingering guitars. Davis’ voice assumes just enough of a catch in her voice, the right amount of longing to get the point across.
Never Missed My Baby is a feel-good tune that really brings the band together as a cohesive unit. Swinging and kicking here is a song that showcases most of the players and I love the call and response between Davis and the guys.
God Bless the Child Billie Holiday’s composition and song has been covered a lot but the band does a sterling job especially the sad, opening New Orleans trumpet and the poignant wraparound lyrics supplied by a achingly beautiful delivery from Davis.
Davis is also versatile and can be equally playful if the song demands it. (Example: Bonus track You Rascal You abounds with hilarious lyrics such as “I’ll be glad when you’re dead you rascal you …!” Davis gets so much mileage out of that one word – “rascal” – it’s harmless and deadly all at the same time … and the backup vocals are priceless, adding perfectly timed shouts of encouragement).
Personal fav line delivered in a jaunty, upbeat way with a laughing, trumpety agreement: I’m gonna kill ya just for fun.
Defintely an old soul in a young body, Davis evidently missed being born in the appropriate (jazz) decade – singing with the Steppin’ In It lads as Shout Sister Shout has got to be the next best thing! Listen up.
On the album:
Rachael Davis – vocals; Joe Wilson – Trombone, Steel Guitar, Vocals; Andy Wilson – Harmonicas, Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Dominic John Suchyta – Upright Bass and Vocals; Joshua Davis – Guitars and vocals.