Where to start the hyperventilating hyperbole for Sweet Talk I have no idea. So I'm going to kill time with an introductory paragraph or twelve about this NY based band of hybrid visionaries led by a honky-tonkin' chanteuse and her western swing jazzers that manages to not sound like New York at all, but somehow does, and then doesn't. I think that's a pretty neat trick, and I'd like to thank Flora and the nice folks at Signature Sounds for sending me Sweet Talk to review. It's a real cool surprise and believe me, amid this bitter and polarizing Great Recession, I sure as hell needed one. And let's be honest—you do too.
So let's start there. Don't Tell Mama opens with a muscular R&B fervor; our heroine swinging on a crescent moon singing in the groove, off the beat "Don't tell mama we've been makin' love", sounding like one of them old 78's your grandpa used to play when grandma was at church. We then move seamlessly into the country swing of I Never Thought I'd Be Lonely. Next we have the improbable New Orleans second line sass of Adeline. Here I have to start throwing much deserved kudos to the rhythm section of bassist Danny Weller and drummer Matt Meyer—whose sustained wallop and turn-on-the-dime, turn-on-Tess's-whim timing is unstoppable throughout. Will Graefe's stinging, guitar is concise and colorful (every song proves my point, but listen to the rock on People Come Here For Gold) The rhythm guitar is Miss Tess herself, moving from a 1930's archtop to a 60's Harmony Stratotone.
Then there's the slinky, swampy This Affair, the waltzing, contemplative Save Me St. Peter with the killer line "Walking on water is a hell of a stand / With no solid ground and no helping hand." Did I mention Tess wrote ten of the eleven songs on Sweet Talk? Yup, including the all out Saturday night dance hall swingfest Everybody's Darling.
If there's a sad angle to all this, it's that this is Tess' fifth release. How the hell does someone this daring, talented, and obviously undaunted go mostly unheard? It's a damn shame. But listen now. Maybe we can all get together on Miss Tess if we can't agree on anything else.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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