Various Artists

Nightingales Can Sing the Blues

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This hauntingly sad set collects 23 sides -- one side each from 23 women singers from the 1930s and 1940s, some of whom, like Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, and Patti Page, are well-known artists -- into a long, riveting treatise on the broken-hearted side of love. It's not a blues album, at least not in the sense of any of these songs having a strict blues form, but it's an album about how blue one can get when love doesn't work out quite right. Most of these women are jazz singers working on the pop end of the spectrum. Drawn from old 78s, some of which have never been released on disc before, the survey opens with Connie Boswell's "In a Little Second-Hand Store" from 1933 and proceeds chronologically from there, and includes delights like Helen O'Connell's "I'm Stepping Out with a Memory Tonight," the ornate and otherworldly beauty of Peggy Lee's "A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues," and the chilling, hushed urgency of "The Thrill Is Gone" by Patti Page, but every track here has an emotional rightness about it. These are sad songs, yeah, but they're beautifully sung, arranged, and conceived. This collection might not cheer you up, but it consoles all the same.

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