Leon Redbone

Up a Lazy River

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Idiosyncratic singer/songwriter Leon Redbone spent the 1990s building upon his sizable cult following with more uncanny arrangements of vintage pop and jazz tunes, while simultaneously unveiling a few of his own compositions. Sporting an unmistakable and remarkably limber baritone, Redbone continues his fusion of Americana with some distinct and flavorful overtones that would not sound out of place in the Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli-led Quintet of the Hot Club of France. This is evident right out of the box on Redbone's "Play Gypsy Play," as guitarist Frank Vignola and violinist Stan Kurtis provide a hearty Hot Club vibe. An almost palpable sense of mystery shrouds the somnolent "At the Chocolate Bon Bon Ball," incorporating Alfredo Pedernera on the Argentinean bandoneón -- a native instrument with a tonality close to that of its' European descendant, the concertina. Pedernera weaves hypnotically beneath the march-like cadence, unifying the otherwise disparate sonic elements. The easygoing languid cover of Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy River" can easily be considered a seminal entry in Redbone's repertoire, with just enough energy to gently move the song along. Special guest Dr. John tickles the ivories further accenting the sumptuous melody. "When Dixie Stars Are Playing Peek-a-Boo" is an obscure side dating to the early 20th century. Asleep at the Wheel's Cindy Cashdollar picks a down-home dobro, modernizing the rural blues amalgam and definitely hearkening to the original. Similarly, Redbone's interpretation of "Mr. Jelly Roll Baker" has one foot in the past while leaping toward a rollicking renewal of the Beale Street blues from whence the selection was derived. Again, Cashdollar is heard here, twanging beneath a full-bodied lead vocal and some buoyant sax interjections from multi-instrumentalist Vince Giordano, who also plays piano, drums and bass on the track. His sax spills over on to the humor-laden take-off/put-on rendering of Papa Charlie Jackson's bawdy blues "Gotta Shake That Thing." Other standouts on Up a Lazy River (1992) include the Redbone co-penned "That Old Familiar Blues" and "Bittersweet Waltz" -- both boasting additional contributions from Dr. John -- although the latter shouldn't be mistaken for the Noël Coward song of the same name.

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