There is a club in the tiny, tiny town of Aberdeen, North Carolina, called The Rooster’s Wife. Playing there recently was one of the most satisfying concert experiences of our collective lives. The funky venue is beautiful, the audience is a sophisticated, musically educated crowd, and the performers are treated like royalty. Janet Kenworthy has created a nearly magical experience that that appears, like Brigadoon, each Sunday night at 6:46 PM. If you are within 250 miles…GO.
I enjoyed this CD so much that I played it twice, and no reviewer can give higher praise than that. And the inserts were a reviewer’s dream – all the song words were supplied, with a short and accurate description of each track, photos of all the musicians, not just the vocalist, and musicians listed as above in an egalitarian way, the drummer not left till last, nor the vocalist mentioned first. The impression given is one of genuine teamwork.
And the CD is full of jaunty fun, only one sad song, a CD suitable for parties and also for quiet listening. Indeed many tracks are very danceable too, so I’d recommend this disc to our local Newcastle Swing Dancers. It includes “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” played with a distinct two-beat. There are 3 other standards; “Cool” (from West Side Story), “Via Con Me,” and “Old Man River.” Nine tracks are originals with lively, witty lyrics, and there is a short joke track which you can use to check out your stereo! Many of the original songs have a jazzy 1930s feel. To quote from one of the track descriptions for “It’s Always You,” “…Tommy Barrick’s groove with Pete Ostle is insistent and funky, the horn lines are as hip as can be, and the melody is an ear-worm….” For an example of amusing lyrics I quote from “I Just Want All My Stuff” (a song about divorce): “He hopes that we’ll stay friends/and that we’ll stay in touch/Me? I’m kind of hoping/He gets run down by a bus.” The title track, “Dot Dot Dot,” is about a love affair seen as sailing through choppy waters, so Morse Code is part of the song. Other song themes include a fantasy about little blue men, loving a man because of his trendy car and complaining about a date who keeps you waiting. The instrumental of “Old Man River” is fast with a stunning drum solo.
Chaise Lounge have been together for 12 years, are well known in the USA, and have 6 albums to their credit. The CD was issued in September on Modern Songbook Records.
FAME is actually the acronym for the “Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange” on acousticmusic.com. We’re delighted with critic Mark S. Tucker’s FAME review of Dot Dot Dot…especially as it regards Marilyn’s dramatic effect on the fictional Father Flaherty:
Don’t let the Dot Dot Dot CD title or the non-descript moderne cover artwork fool you. Chaise Lounge doesn’t engage in Kraftwerky bleep blopp music nor synth-drenched electronica, nor even minimalist glitch, but instead a return to the groovy elder cool of the 50s and before. Not the zany looniness of Spike Jones but the cut-up hipsterism of Louis Prima and ilk, much more mannered and urbane than Jones but just as enjoyable in its own way. There’s plenty of swing, era jazz, jivin’ jump, and that sort of thing, all of it led by a cat named, now get this, Charlie Barnett. Yep, just one little ‘t’ away from the great Charlie Barnet of bygone fame.
The song “Dot Dot Dot” isn’t about any dot.com, it’s not an ellipsis, nor even a sing-song redundancy but a reference to Morse code, an element of the S.O.S. distress signal, here applied to a metaphorical ship sinking in the sea of love, a way hip cut with Marilyn Older singing in her perennially slinky, sultry, sexy near-babydoll voice beside five highly talented and letter perfect instrumentalists (clarinet, trombone, drums, guitar, bass). Older’s sensuality would make a bishop sweat bullets, grow red in the face, and kick out a stained-glass window, but Barnett (guitar, piano, accordion, tenor banjo) and the boys ice the situation back down, putting the hold-on to the go-on as Father Flaherty hip-sways a little jig back to the sacristy to doff the vestments and deck out in reet pleat and pompadour.
Apparently the concert audience favorite is “The Coolest Car,” an infectious tune, but I’m going for “I Just Want All of my Stuff,” just as humorous but of the sort that drives home what happens when two lovers meet, love, lose, split, part, and get down to brass tacks:
I just want all my stuff
My TV and my Xbox and the records I love
You can keep your dreams
And your precious self esteem
I just want all of my stuff
…and, man o man, I think Barnett was listening in on a couple of my own romantic flame-outs. Everything’s not all grins ‘n’ giggles, though, as “Split in Two (Wreckage)” is a dead-set serious ballad of a marriage gone terribly wrong, sung in a light wistful tone but weighted down with confusion and memories, the good against the bad, wondering what the heck happened. This is the penultimate number, a superb and thoughtful but heart-panged track, just before a speedy instrumental version of “Old Man River” closes everything out.
Still working to make retro modern, this east coast band scores again. Outstanding musicians. Smart lyrics. A vocalist who knows how to both sing and play with the lyrics.
And best of all, they all seem to be having a lot of fun.
Lyrics (“I Just Want All of My Stuff”) like:
He wishes all the best for me
And hopes I’ll move on soon
Well I’ve got myself a rental truck
And I’ll be out by noon.
Who pulls this off? Marilyn Older gives the voice to Charlie Barnett’s lyrics, always taking the high road, throwing this stuff off with a straight face. In the process, she gives new life to old classics like West Side Story’s “Cool,” or a very uptempo “Via Con Me,” with English lyrics to Paolo Conte’s Italian classic that’s been covered more than two dozen times in the past 30 years.
But while covers can pay the rent, it’s the original stuff that gets noticed. Mr. Barnett has the material, and Ms. Older delivers the goods.
It would be a disservice not to say that for me, Ms. Older’s vocals are the capper to a versatile group that includes Pete Ostle on bass, Joe Jackson on trombone, Tom Barrick on drums, and Gary Gregg on sax and clarinet. They’re able to take this kind of material – and in a world that’s been Mad Men-ed to death, pay homage to both the past, and to make it sound fresh, too. The band shows their stuff on two instrumentals, one the original (Mr. Barnett, again) “Señor Hueso,” the other on a very uptempo “Old Man River.”
Highest recommendation for this sixth disc from this band.