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Sentimental Streak
Sentimental Streak
By Catherine Russell

World Village Records: 2008

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This review first appeared in Turbula in March 2008.

Longtime backup singer Catherine Russell has turned in an album of old-timey and traditional jazz and blues that is so breathtaking in its natural feeling that you wonder how she has stayed hidden from the mainstrean public for so many years.

While stylistically hearkening back to the 1920s, '30s and '40s, Russell's performance on her new CD is never affected – it is, instead, simply glowing with vintage patina. A good point of comparison might be some of Kermit Ruffins' or Leroy Jones' early paeans to Louis Armstrong – like Jones, Russell is a singer seemingly born into the wrong generation. With arrangements and backing players that absolutely capture the period feel of songs by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, Alberta Hunter and Willie Dixon, Russell re-creates the feel of an after-hours jazz club circa World War II, while infusing it with her own personality.

And such a personality – more immediately accessible than either Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday, but with far more gravitas than a Julie London or Kitty Kallen, Russell captures a bit of Ella Fitzgerald's ability to be both bright and sunny in her singing while also conveying emotional depths supposedly the domain of "serious" singers.

When you add all that to an impeccable sense of timing, and a well-honed ability to sing within the music of her backing band ... well, Russell is absolutely the goods.