Music to Soothe the Savage Breast

Music can calm and quiet when meditation, power walks, and cooking are not enough. Here are some fine “albums” you can secure through your favorite medium.

Kellye Gray- “Rendering” celebrates the 25th anniversary of her 1989 debut album, Standards in Gray, which is included in the 2-CD set. It reflects a pure, gut level approach to music and lyrics. Think Abbey Lincoln and Sarah Vaughan. I heard a taste of Bessie Smith on one cut. Still, the lady is very much herself. Palpable four-octave-range vocals issue from someplace soulful and physically deep, often with instrumental emulation. Phrasing is distinctive, theatrical without going over the top. Gray audibly sculpts her songs. A grand musician on so many levels.

Karen Oberlin & Sean Harkness- “A Wish” Two skilled, companionable musicians offer the essence of material. Just voice and guitar. Every word and note is pristine, warm. Phrasing arrives personal but always in service of lyrics. Oberlin’s performance feels effortless; octave changes slide, scat is round-edged. Harkness caresses his instrument with tender precision. Oberlin’s “More Than You Know” palpably yearns. “Train in the Distance” conjures dust bowl images. “My Valentine” is just- beautiful. Vocal and guitar salute and respect each other.

Marty Elkins “Fat Daddy” – Elkins “gets” and performs 1940s and ’50s songs as if accustomed to bus tours, bandstands, and boîtes. Artful vocals are never less than appealingly melodic. The performer seems at ease with vernacular others have difficulty singing. Everything from a lilting ballad to “Cow Cow Boogie” sounds cool and natural. Arrangements cozily reflect earlier eras. Scat teases. Lyrics spread like butter. Consonants melt. The vocalist colors sophisticated sentiments with familiar pain. There’s history here.

George Ball “Think of Me” – Ball has the kind of rough and tender voice in which you want to wrap yourself- deep, masculine, authentic. Also an actor, he sings as he might speak, with measured intention. Character selections like “Highway Patrolman” and “The Moon is Still Over Her Shoulder” become flesh and blood. An understated “Fanette” is far headier than its commonly forceful rendition and Ball’s may be the most persuasive “Some Enchanted Evening” you ever hear. Emotion is grounded, not showy. Musicians Michelle Brourman and Stephen Oberhoff add immeasurably.

Beverly Church Hogan “Can’t Get Out of This Mood” – Ultimately, what makes a voice engaging is not just skill and the ability to communicate but cadence and timbre. That which is technically pristine can also be hollow, while idiosyncrasies might please. Hogan’s voice is just chesty enough to add a pinch more emotion and affect between the lines. Low notes breathe. Almost everything arrives round-edged. She sounds genuine. Arrangements are for the most part muted and subtle, each leads fluently to the next. The band is terrific.

Derek Jacobi & Anne Reid “You Are the Best Thing…That Ever Has Happened to Me.” Two superb British actors bring great feeling to a selection of warm songs. Both can sing, neither has a “perfect” voice. Sound is refined and thoroughly appealing, chemistry just right. Intermittent comments enrich. “I May Be Wrong, But I Think You’re Wonderful” emerges waltzy but poignant; “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” is a scene in one. There’s not a trace of falseness. “My Favorite Year” is a prime example of lyrics imbued with experience. Beguiling.

Todd Murray- “Croon” The artist’s low, resonant vocals, unhurried phrasing, and warmth is almost as good as being there. Murray creates a completely original, smokey version of “I’m Your Man” – is sensual, backstreet, heavy-lidded. His jaunty “Learn to Croon” with Sean Harkness on ukulele is adorable. Even a tempered “This Guy’s in Love With You” sounds less corny in this performer’s hands. No mean feat. First-rate arrangements are credited to a variety of talented musicians. This IS crooning.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Opening Photo of Todd Murray Takako Harness Photgraphy:

These music selections were chosen because our writer believes they are lovely to listen to and worthy of your time. As an Amazon affiliate Woman Around Town will receive a small payment for sales of these linked products.

About Alix Cohen (877 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.