This is Boston-based Shelley Neill's second album for her Cobalt Music label. Music Sweet Music offers a varied menu of the conventional and unconventional performed by what used to be called a torch singer, but here a torch singer who also can swing. Every song is delivered with intensity, working each note for all that it's worth. Picture a dark café in some faraway exotic place like Kathmandu, Nepal. In one dark corner, Peter Lorre is conspiring with Sidney Greenstreet. Humphrey Bogart has found Lauren Bacall, the best-looking woman in the place. Then there's the torch singer with the husky voice rising above the hushed tones of the place. And she's singing so good, you wonder how she ended up in this dump. Neill sings languidly on "Dark Shadows," "Fever/Comes Love," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," and "Since I Fell for You." Then there's a change of pace with an up-tempo "Slow Down," an Anita O'Day tune from the Gene Krupa big band days. When Neill asks "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," it's no idle question. She wants to know and one can only conjecture about the consequences of a "no" answer. The usually cheerily rendered "You Are My Sunshine" is transformed into a torch song à la the great Irene Kral. Laszlo Gardony's piano tinkles from time to time, adding to the saloon atmosphere. Genevieve Rose's bass and Gregory Caputo's drums provide a steady, supportive beat without encroaching on Neill's vocal domain. Neill makes some changes in the words for "Comes Love" and "You Hit the Spot" because some of the lyrics -- for example "...put your rubbers on your feet" -- are a bit dated. Using her deep, husky voice, vibrato, and phrasing very effectively, Neill takes listeners through 15 tunes, providing a generous, entertaining hour plus of music.
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