The Chapin Sisters
The Chapin Sisters, A Date with the Everly Brothers. When music takes the express elevator right to the top of the skyscraper, well, just be glad we're along for the ride. The Everly Brothers might be the very, very finest singing duo of all time. There's something in the genetics of the voices of siblings when they join together, but beyond Don and Phil Everly's spine-tingling two-part harmony the pair found perfection everywhere they turned: the songs, the musicians, the production, the whole shebang. Listen to their "Cathy's Clown" or almost anything else to find nirvana in the grooves. It's all there. Abigail and Lily Chapin capture that same goosebumping sound when they come together on classics like "When Will I Be Loved," "Sleepless Nights" and all the others. From soaring harmonies and bone-chilling solos, it feels from the very start of this stellar album that fate has been found.
And while it may be hard to escape the idea this music is aimed at nostalgia, what is really accomplished here is a timelessness which cannot be denied. The Chapin Sisters have discovered an incredible treasure of music that lets them go to the moon. They assembled musicians who contribute exactly what is called for, and never go over the line and take away from the vocals. They recorded almost everything in one session, and then sent the results to four different mixers (including father Tom Chapin), allowing an edgy excitement to become inescapable in the final sound. It's like the Chapins have opened a direct link to the Everlys, jumping across decades and genders with an overwhelming passion. Now if only the two sets of siblings would arrange a night at Carnegie Hall and make that magic in person. Like they've both sung: "All I Have to Do is Dream."
Jude Johnstone, Shatter. They are some artists who reside just under the radar. They continually record albums of stunning emotion, filled with songs that others go on to turn into modern anthems. Jude Johnstone's originals have been done by Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Bette Midler, Jennifer Warnes and others. It's no accident that these stars turn to a writer like Johnstone. She has the soul to excite them all. Shatter is the sixth album in 10 years, and finds her rediscovering every element that has made the woman a certified designated hitter in the writing department. Even better, her voice is so distinctive that new songs like "What a Fool," "Touchdown Jesus" and "Halfway Home" should be able to turn a brighter spotlight her way and finally show the world what has been here all along.
Still, it can be a challenging journey venturing into Jude Johnstone's life. When darkness invades the heart and makes putting one foot in front of the other a first order of the day's business, it's clear it's time to hold on for dear life. So many of these songs come with the intensity of a private prayer, where someone hits middle age hard, looking for the hope that love's life raft offers us. Luckily, she finds it enough to get to the other side of the river with insides intact. Musically, Johnstone has no fear. She'll mix blues, jazz, rock, country and whatever else is called for to bring her words to life. For those who once zoned in to the mean streets Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones and other young bohemians walked, these lucky 11 songs will offer a ray of light which promises to never go out.
Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck, The White House Sessions, Live 1962. One of the more alluring things about loving music is how every now and then a long-lost tape is discovered that's never been heard. It feels like a personal present has arrived out of the ozone. In 1962 jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and singer Tony Bennett performed at the base of the Washington Monument in the Sylvan Theatre, and the date was recorded live. Then the tapes disappeared, mistakenly filed away in the Columbia Records archives among classical recordings from the same period. When they were found in 2012, surely a light appeared in the room when they were first heard.
Dave Brubeck had already scored a career-defining hit with "Take Five," with its seductive alto saxophone improvisations by song composer Paul Desmond, backed by the swinging drums of Joe Morello and bass stalwart Eugene Wright. Brubeck was an inventive pianist who had a way of combing the inspired musings of a jazz mind with the more practical elements of popular music. It worked like crazy and put the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the history books. The four songs here show why and prove the idea of jazz as America's great musical invention. Tony Bennett had also become a super successful singer with "(I Left My Heart in) San Francisco," and shows why on four other superlative choices with the Ralph Sharon Trio. When Bennett joins Brubeck at the end of the concert, and especially on "There Will Never Be Another You," it's a shame they didn't tour together more. Bennett's voice has never been more touching, and Brubeck's piano proves he was equally as inspired as an accompanist. They hit the mother lode when this box of tape was found, and can only make us hope there is more sonic spelunking to be done soon.