Catherine Russell

Cat

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The world is never short of new jazz/blues singers, but with Cat, Catherine Russell stands out from the crowd. The child of very musical parents, she's inherited their genes, but added her individuality, which can move from the pop-blues of Sam Cooke's "You Were Made for Me" (one of two Cooke songs here, both with real identity) to the New Orleans style of "Juneteenth Jamboree." Interesting touches in the arrangements help the album, too, such as the mandolin on "Sad Lover Blues" (it features elsewhere, too) or the pedal steel that colors "The Late, Late Show." Russell isn't a belter. She prefers to shade her material and does it well. There are a few surprising choices, the most obvious being "New Speedway Boogie," the cover of a Grateful Dead song that more or less works (they were so idiosyncratic that anything written specifically for them seems a little misplaced done by anyone else), but it's a joy to hear someone singing outside the usual box of standards. Whether she'll become a major star remains in the lap of the gods. But she's definitely one of the more adventurous -- and friendly -- singers mining the seam of jazz-blues.

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