by: Suzy Bogguss

On her third self-released album, Suzy Bogguss, one of the finest female vocalists living and working in Nashville, allows one of her many passions to come to the surface on Swing. With Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson in the producer's chair, Bogguss kicks out 12 classy pop, jazz, and swing tunes with a smoking band making a timeless sound. Benson knows the feel of this music inside and out (and brought his violin player, the Stephane Grappelli-inspired Jason Roberts, along for the ride), and Bogguss, whose mom is a big Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald fan, can sing virtually anything -- but has a special affinity for the swing book -- with a twist. There are nuggets of the repertoire here, such as Nat King Cole's "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" as well as "Comes Love" -- closely associated with Billie Holiday -- and the great Ken Burgan tune "Sweetheart." But there's plenty of new material, too; there are five cuts by Nashville songwriter and jazz singer April Barrows, who writes in the Nat King Cole idiom with smart, modern lyrics; inventive melodies; and a wondrous sense of rhythm. Bogguss and husband and songwriter Doug Crider contributed one and Paul Kramer offered a pair. The jump in these tunes is fresh and new; there are no tired Diana Krall readings of the same old tunes here that had been better-recorded long before. The feel is jumping and smooth, such as on "Burning the Toast" by Barrows, in cut time with Roberts and pianist Floyd Domino floating with clarinetist John H.R. Mills against a popping double-bassline by Spencer Starnes and Benson's guitar. Recorded in Austin, TX, Swing feels loose, fancy free, and focused on exploration, bringing the essence of a song out into the idiom in which it was written. "It's New to Me" by Bogguss, Crider, and Kramer has a bluesy truth to it that is underscored by sax and clarinet wafting so warm from the fringes as Domino's right hand fills and comps slip in between lyric and horn arrangement to make the track just shine. The duet with Benson, "Cupid Shot Us Both With One Arrow," features Roberts doing the gypsy swing thing with passion and fervor, yet never takes away the sprightly tempoed tune form the singers. In all, Swing is the strongest Suzy Bogguss record ever -- yes, ever. This is not a novelty record, not some trendy acclimation to the times, but a way of revealing, as she has, the depth and dimension of her artistry in a new way. Hopefully there are some triple-A jazz and Americana radio programmers out there -- as well as a few visionary public-radio DJs -- who will play this slab once or twice. That's all it will take. This is the most elegant pop-jazz record of the year thus far, and it will be tough to beat. Swing will only delight Bogguss' legion of time-honored fans and win her plenty of new ones as well. ~ Thom Jurek

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