We know Duke Robillard has always held a deep love for the rock and roll of the 50s, but he's also way deep into cajun and other forms finding some of their genesis and expansion points in New Orleans jazz and correlative musics. Thus, the esteemed fretsman produced and played on this disc of Sunny Crownover's, a chanteuse specializing in The Great American Songbook, music from the 50s and before. This of course means an anthology of standards and, frankly, such efforts are always welcome, especially in this current milieu of radio shlaga.
Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys, however, is not a compendium of torch ballads, as is so frequently the case. Instead, there are a number of 'up' tunes like Strictly from Dixie, kind of a Southern flapper track, Gatsby and Daisy sipping mint juleps while Billy Novick's clarinet pulls them NYC-wards. That's companioned by You're Driving Me Crazy, which would normally be far blue-er, but Sunny injects a lark and a graceful quickstep into it, smooth voice smiling for the thoughts of a desired lover despite separation and disappointment. Robillard inserts great pickin' in the middle eight, Novick switching to alto sax, and both bounce along above Paul Kolesnikow's rhythm guitar (on an archtop, possibly the sweetest of all axes) and Jesse Williams' mutable bass.
There are indeed torchy tunes but Sunny has an inseparable swing to her that injects a higher toned pulse than would be normal to the oeuvre, as in That's My Desire, a ballad, sure, but carrying an underlying tempo that's difficult to locate the true foundation in. At first I thought it was the bass, then it had to be Robillard's plucking, but I soon realized that all the musicians were playing to the singer's natural rhythm. A moment later and Stop, You're Breaking My Heart gets into a sweet jump cadence, proving the case, with the clarinet Goodman-ing a dance hall lilt.
That's Sunny Crownover's ace, that inseparable swing. It does drop out occasionally, as on a great reading of You're My Thrill, genuinely torchy and something Linda Ronstadt would've tackled the same way, but everything leaps right back in on the toe-tapping The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Sunny's obviously been groovin' behind Dorsey, Goodman, Ellington, James, Shaw, Hampton, and the swing-jazz geniuses all these years, and thank our lucky stars that she has 'cause there's never enough fresh voices doing what she's doin'. I've just described not even half the CD; the rest will be for you to discover.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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