CD review: Elizabeth Shepherd

(Linus Entertainment)

I have come upon this Canadian singer a little late in the day, or should I say a little late in the morning, as she has a whole lot of her career ahead of her yet. It was as a guest singer on fellow Canadian Michel Occhipinti’s album of John Lennon songs, and her breathy, yet straight, singing immediately appealed.

Her fourth CD is a collection of standards. Now, normally, catching sight of Love For Sale as the opening track of an unknown female vocalist’s album would fill me with gloom. I have heard far too many underwhelming readings of this song from well-meaning but ultimately uninspiring singers.

But, if you want to hear how to get a tired old warhorse not only back on its feet but trotting round with its head in the air, just try track one here.

It opens with multi-tracked Elizabeth singing a riff of “Sweet love – sweet, sweet love”. Then it’s into the classic melody and lyric against a thoroughly modern slow hip-hop beat and Shepherd’s own Wurlitzer setting the groove going with Ross MacIntyre’s double bass recalling that opening riff behind the vocal. Perfect.

And if you want a masterclass in fine song choice, how to develop a distinctive but natural voice, and a perfectly suited and original instrumental setting for that voice – they are all here, too.

There is a charming whisper-sung version of the much undervalued Poinciana with acoustic guitar accompaniment, a couple of French songs, a lovely reading of a Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes song called Lonely House (I didn’t know it and it’s a real gem). Also great versions of the Bricusse/Newley song Feeling Good, the gracious Midnight Sun (perhaps a little too quick to get the lyric out comfortably?), and Buzzard Song from Porgy and Bess.

Oh, and lots of other lovely songs – each made fresh and new, and each fitting in nicely with Shepherd’s retro-style for this album. The cover art and the general ambience make it a perfect partner to Donald Fagen’s tribute to Kennedy’s America, The Nightfly. Music for the New Frontier, indeed.

This disc is released in this country on 3 December, but you can sample it on Elizabeth’s website here. It’s terrific stuff.

Categories: CD review

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