Crystal Gayle

Heart & Soul

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The reissue of the soundtrack from Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart in early 2004 reminded listeners of Crystal Gayle's considerable gifts as an interpretive singer in the American standard tradition. While Tom Waits wrote the songs, he scripted them in part to fill a narrative idea by Coppola, and in part for the inimitable voice of Gayle. She topped the crossover charts in the 1970s, and has been largely regarded as a legend rather than a still vital performer despite the fact that she has expanded her vocal and stylistic palette. If there were any justice, this set of Hoagy Carmichael tunes would recast Gayle's reputation from that of a country singer to that of a consummate jazz and pop standards torchbearer. Heart & Soul offers proof in the pudding that Gayle has become one of the truly great American singers. In the grain of her voice lies the entire history of American popular song. This set was recorded in Nashville with a core band, but it also features full string, reed, and brass sections in places -- such as on the elegant "One Morning in May" and on the heartbreakingly lush "Lazy River." Elsewhere, as on "Lazybones" and "Ole Buttermilk Sky," the swing's the thing and is painted in different colors. On the former, the saxophone of Jay Patten and muted trumpet of George Tidwell ease the rhythm along. On the latter, fiddle boss Buddy Spicher, guitarist Mike Loudermilk, and Joey Miskulin's accordion establish that the swang's the thang. Gayle's reading of "Georgia on My Mind" is both reverential and revelatory. She recasts the tune in its original light and is added by the piano fills of Charles Cochran and the gorgeous saxophone lines of Jay Patten. Willie Nelson joins Gayle on "Two Sleepy People" as does a string quartet, and while Nelson's vocal isn't what it once was, it's still plenty effective contrasted against Gayle's. The album's final track, "Can't Get Indiana Off My Mind," which Carmichael wrote with Robert DeLeon, is the perfect fusion of rural American song tropes and the more sophisticated melodic sensibilities that Carmichael reveled in. This is a gorgeous set, one that reaffirms Gayle's artistry to be sure, but also one that offers the first really new hearing of Carmichael in at least a decade.

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