Strictly Romancin', jazz/blues vocalist Catherine Russell's fourth solo release, is a paean to natural attractions; to a lover, an art form, and to one's family heritage. On the album, Catherine explores love's foibles, failures, and bliss, from amorous to humorous, embodying the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric, and allowing each melody to shine. On this 14 song collection, this ever soulful vocalist takes us on a journey; from Harlem dance hall, to Parisian Café, to Store Front Church, to New Orleans Gin Joint, to Uptown Cabaret, blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal, in a musical tour de force.
Catherine Russell—A Red Hot Virtuoso
Thursday, May 12th, 2011
by Alix Cohen on Playing Around
Catherine Russell is a throwback to the era of iconic jazz. She's strong and vulnerable, sophisticated and deep-fried, a hundred percent lady and a low down, backdoor dame. With one number, she seems to be on a bandstand, for another in a smoke-filled joint, during a third, at a 50's martini-fueled nightclub. Whatcha Gonna Do When There Ain't No Swing?! (Ray Condo) Russell challenges, making lyrics sound like scat: The rhythm is HOT HOT HOT. Her presence commands attention. She vibrates energy without a superfluous move. Even directing the band is accomplished with a raised arm, a turned wrist, and a look. Close your eyes/Let's pretend that we're counting sheep (Bernice Petkere) she croons with a voice of double-faced satin... (link)
Reading Donald Bogle's excellent new biography of Ethel Waters, "Heat Wave," puts me in the mood to hear her greatest living successor. There are a zillion reasons to love Catherine Russell, not least of which is that she'd rather sing the blues than a bossa nova or Björk. She dwells mostly in the 1930s, doing justice to the legacies of such icons as Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as many sub-styles of the blues, from the more formal "classic" mode of Bessie Smith ("Kitchen Man") to the jumping jive of Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris ("Quiet Whiskey") and the hardcore Chicago style of Howlin' Wolf ("Spoonful"). Like Waller and Waters, her record sessions are populated with the best players of her time, and such ace accompanists as John Allred (trombone), Howard Johnson (tuba) and guitar virtuoso Matt Munisteri all pause for the cause on her outstanding 2010 "Inside This Heart of Mine."" (link)