Chatanooga Swing

Betty Johnson

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Chatanooga Swing Review

by Steve Loewy

Betty Johnson and daughter Elisabeth Gray take on the big band repertoire in this highly entertaining, swinging set of carefully selected standards. Further evidence of Johnson's remarkable comeback after years of retirement, this album finds the two vocalists fronting a steaming Madrid-based orchestra performing in the styles of decades past. Close your eyes and you are transported to another era when these great tunes (including "It's All Right With Me," "Tuxedo Junction," "Blue Moon," and "Chattanooga Choo Choo") held sway. Like her sister, Lydia Gray (who can be heard to good effect with Johnson on Soft Lights & Sweet Music), Elisabeth has a fresh, relaxed style, a fine affinity for the lyrics, and a naturally sultry banter. While Johnson's voice has deepened a bit through the years, it still manages to project a youthful exuberance. Together, the women communicate a certain innocence, a throwback to simpler times, and a sort of apple-pie Americana that is appealing for its un-self-consciousness. Even on the somewhat difficult slower pieces, such as the lovely "Tu Me Acostumbraste" (sung in Spanish by Gray) or "Spring Is Here," there is an upbeat, lilting quality beneath the surface. Ultimately, Johnson and Gray regale in optimistic fare and good dance music of the toe-tapping variety, with a strong jazz feel. Great fun.

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