Unlike such folk-circuit peers as the Roches and the 4 Bitchin' Babes, the Chenille Sisters have always shown an affinity for pre-1950 American popular music, calling upon such predecessors as the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters to form their style and including songs from the interwar period in their repertoire. They used pianist/bandleader James Dapogny and a small jazz group on their version of the 1944 song "Low Gravy" on At Home with the Chenille Sisters (repeated here) and brought the same musicians back for "Hummin' to Myself" and the title song from Mama, I Wanna Make Rhythm. So, it's no surprise that they should team up with Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band for a full-length album of material from the 1924-1944 era of jazz and swing. Unfortunately, while they clearly enjoy this music, they don't really have much of a feel for it. Or maybe they are content to try to recreate arrangements without digging in and performing with conviction. When Connee Boswell sang "Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)" with Bing Crosby, it was a tour de force of rhythmic vocal interplay; to the Chenille Sisters, it's just a nice song. And that's they way they seem to see all these tunes. Where their predecessors brought a sense of enthusiasm to this music, the Chenille Sisters are content to perform competently. At its best, swing can be, as it was often called, hot, but this trio is deliberately cool. It's as if they are trying to show listeners what the Boswell Sisters' and Andrews Sisters' repertoires would sound like as sung by a '50s act like the McGuire Sisters. Dapogny's band does break through here and there for some good soloing, particularly on "Bye Bye Blues," which it has all to itself. But then the homogenized singers return, and all the excitement goes out of the music.
Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight? Review
by William Ruhlmann