Music

Catherine Russell: Inside this Heart of Mine

Russell clearly implies nothing has changed: eating good food and drinking fine alcohol, the dance of love between a couple, the joy of life no matter what troubles are out there in the world, are what matters most.


Catherine Russell

Inside This Heart of Mine

Label: World Village
US Release Date: 2010-04-13
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Catherine Russell’s tremendous musical talent is an open secret. She’s been a back up singer for rock royalty like Madonna, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, and others. She also descends from jazz royalty. Her dad Luis Russell was Louis Armstrong’s musical director during the '40s, and her mom Carline Ray performed with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Wynton Marsalis. You’ve heard Catherine’s voice even if you did not realize it was her on television and radio commercials for Bud Light, Oil of Olay, Dairy Queen, and J.C. Penny. The only question really is, after two wonderful and critically lauded albums, why don’t you know her?

Part of the reason has to do with her chosen style as a traditional jazz and blues singer. This has not been the hippest genre. Despite pristine credentials and rave reviews, not many people really want to listen to the retro sounds of Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong by a contemporary artist. Russell’s latest recording offers wonderful versions of songs by these masters. Will this be the break though album that makes Russell a household name? Judging by the past, the answer is “no”, but judging by the performances here the answer should be a “Hell, yes!”

Russell performs with a warm sophistication that bespeaks elegance and refinement even when singing tunes about the joys of Louis Armstrong‘s “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque” and the drunken pleasures of Wynonnie Harris‘s “Quiet Whiskey”. Russell can also take bawdy material like Ellington‘s “Long, Strong, and Consecutive” and Howlin‘ Wolf’s “Spoonful” and make the straightforwardly sexually charged lyrics sound delicate and subtle. She’s a master at restraint that never seems restrained, but just ladylike through her charisma and charm. Whether she’s crooning about wearing long underwear, on Maxine Sullivan’s love romp “As Long as I Live”, or Ellington’s “Troubled Waters”, where she proclaims she’s one of those “Devil’s daughters”, Russell comes off as a classy dame. Please note that Russell identifies the songs by the performers of the past rather than the songwriters. Her emphasis is always on how the songs were sung, not on the words and notes on the page.

Russell also has a strong sense of rhythm. Her rendition of Waller’s “We the People”, where she declares the people's right to syncopation, positively swings, as does Russell’s take on Peggy Lee’s “All the Cats Join In”. These songs make you want to get off your butt, and beg to be heard live for full effect.

So what does it mean when an artist takes the music from an earlier era of American life and sings it straight, as if time hasn’t passed from the Roaring '20s, Great Depression, the Fabulous '40s, and the pre-rock '50s? Russell clearly implies nothing has changed: eating good food and drinking fine alcohol, the dance of love between a couple, the joy of life no matter what troubles are out there in the world, are what matters most. As she sings on the title cut, a wonderful Waller track, it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. “Inside This Heart of Mine” is the only place that matters.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.