by Jeff Becker
Ok, Seattle – what is in your water. You are churning out some amazing artistry in your music scene. This one was voted jazz group of the year by Seattle Weekly, and Sundae (Kate Voss) was voted jazz vocalist of the year by Earshot Magazine. So, what does this delightfully vintage duo offer? Absolutely a well-oiled sound that mixes a bit of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys into a divinely flavored vibe that will catch your ear and fill your cockles with toe-tapping fun. This duo is road worthy, approximately 500 dates so far, hitting town to town across the U.S.
Voss is the lead vocalist, who also plays a mean melodica, backed by her hubby Mr. Goessl (Jason), who offers a seamless jazz box guitar sound, let’s not forget the rhythm makers on this project – drummer, Adrian Van Batenburg takes the bulk of the role featured on tracks 1, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14 and percussion and drums by Sam Esecson on tracks 2 and 5.
“When You’re Smiling,” the title track, is the first cut, adorned with guitar by Goessl, and bells by Voss, taken at a medium pace until the first chorus is complete, then a break-neck pace gets its mojo working and drummer Batenburg adds his brushes to the conversation. Voss takes the first solo with melodica, you can hear immediately where this vocalist, instrumentalist gets her phrasing from. Goessl hits the right spots, quick lines, solid ideas, and he never lets up on the rhythm. A nice kick off to the album that sets the tone to this uniquely flavored vintage sound.
“Bang Bang,” a tune written by Sonny Bono for then wife Cher off her album The Sonny Side of Chér, which Nancy Sinatra also recorded on her album How Does That Grab You, is a perfect underground hipster addition to the album, this group has their roots deeply embedded in the retro scene. Voss nails it, if you are not familiar with this tune, you might remember it from the Kill Bill, Tarentino film. Though Cher and Sinatra recorded the tune in the mid-sixties, its seems the Kill Bill soundtrack gets more credit for the tune.
“Crescent City Blues” closes out the album. Originally sung by Beverly Maher and written by Gordon Jenkins and now more so recognized as “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. This is a wildly controversial disagreement between camps. Cash’s version came out in 1955, and Gordon’s in 1953. Cash not only settled out of court for 75 grand, but it was rumored that Gordon Jenkins would receive all future royalties for the song, PROVIDED he did not go to the media about it. That was the deal. This would have been a big blot on Cash’s career, at a point where he had a hit TV show and was about to come out with a book about how Jesus had “saved” him. Maybe it wouldn’t have been a big deal if “Folsom Prison Blues,” wasn’t his theme song that opened all of his shows, but it was. Either way; this tune is all about Sundae + Mr. Goessl and again the two show their deep knowledge of vintage music. The tune is slinky and saucy, and you quickly hear there is magic in their duo sound. Voss is sultry with a bit of bluesy sass to boot, while Goessl provides thoughtful and blues inflected accompaniment.
When You’re Smiling is a journey thorough hipster nostalgia, the off beaten trail of well-written tunes, with a focus on the 20s sound, a pinch of rockabilly, with a heaping of twang and torch mixed in. These two are the full package, sense of humor, great performances and a commitment to a cohesive unique sound that said simply, works, and works quite well. Highly recommended in my book.