Blue Shadows on the Trail
reviewed by R. Doull
There was a time when people danced and jazz and country music were not hostile to each other. The western swing dance music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys was built on the same frame established earlier by Kansas City Territory bands like Walter Page’s Blue Devils. Laura Crema’s five earlier CDs are all loosely rooted in the jazz standard songbook, with some adventurous side excursions. But on this CD the jazz singer takes on American roots and country music and the results are disturbingly good. She yodels like she was born in a saddle.
Thirteen tracks, one original and twelve covers ranging from a traditional folk ballad – Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair, to interpretations of Blind Willie Johnson and Waylon Jennings. The title track was written for the Disney movie, Melody Time, and was released by Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers in 1947.
Crema has a way of slightly understating a lyric; she has such great internal resilience that she shrugs off loss and heartbreak, but she also forces you to confront the small inflections in the lyrics that can shift their meaning and suddenly the song is new.
She is backed by a six piece band including arranger Scott Smith on multiple stringed instruments, Paul Rushka on bass, Nino Di Pasquale on drums, Jay Buether on electric guitar, Darryl Havers on keyboards and accordion, and Mike Sanyshyn on fiddle.
At this point she doesn’t have a tour planned to support the album but she will be playing Frankie’s Jazz Club in Vancouver with the Blue Shadows Band on Sunday, April 23.