I’ve said this before somewhere else on these Web pages, but Massachusetts-based indie record label Signature Sounds is one of the best all around record labels in America right now. With more than 50 recordings in its back catalogue, it’d be hard to hear everything, but I’d be darned if the label has ever released something that is less than good to fantastic. Well, the label’s recent singing of the enigmatic New York City-based rhythm guitarist/singer Miss Tess continues that tradition of issuing superlative rootsy/jazzy/Americana-y recordings, as Sweet Talk, Miss Tess’s debut album for the label, deftly traverses the borderlines between early Tom Waits-esque lounge ballads, old timey country, a dollop of folk rock and a sprinkle of catchy jazz.
There’s much to be taken by and enjoy with Sweet Talk, from the rolling drum solos of opening track “Don’t Tell Mama” to the soft balladry of Miss Tess’s cover of the Ink Spots’ seminal 1940’s R&B hit “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire”. In between, we get a rambunctious stand-up bass solo on “Introduction” which runs into the rumbling countrified-meets-bossa nova of “This Affair”. Miss Tess’s deep, booming voice is alternately seductive and sexy, and is a pure joy to listen to. There’s not a duff track to be found on Sweet Talk, though the album does feel like a showcase for Miss Tess’s backing band’s chops at times, taking the spotlight off individual songs and extending the album into more of a live performance piece. Still, Sweet Talk is a delightful, rollicking record—a must for anyone who likes rootsy music distilled through the veneer of light jazz. It simply solidifies what we know about Signature Sounds: the label continues to issue albums of truly relevant classic music styles of the 20th century updated for the sophistication of the 21st century.