Vanessa Fernandez: When the Levee Breaks

Album review
Vanessa Fernandez: When the Levee Breaks

Vanessa Fernandez

When The Levee Breaks

Label: Groove Note
Media: LP
Genre: Jazz

This album boasts top-notch production quality, including an all-analog recording, mastering by Bernie Grundman, and an all-star cast of studio musicians. Engineer Michael C. Ross’ claim that the LP—which boasts remarkably clean, transparent, and realistic sound—echoes the golden age of audio seems reasonable, but in theory these pristinely-recorded and mostly-acoustic performances move into dangerous territory by reshaping some old-school raunch ’n’ roll. Actually, though, that’s part of the fun—take a huge, billowing sound, scale it down, have a woman sing some very male-centric songs, and see what happens. The best cuts succeed for different reasons. Drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Chris Chaney lay down a killer groove on “Kashmir,” where violinist Charlie Bisharat adds a wild streak; he also brings some edginess to “Immigrant Song.” Instead of swagger, Fernandez uses sly seduction to state her case on “Black Dog.” At the beginning of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” she sounds emotionally drained, like she’s been waiting all night to break the news to her lover. As the song progresses she gains strength but not conviction, as if the person she’s really trying (and failing) to convince is herself—a fine reading of a great song.

More Info

  • primary artist, Vanessa Fernandez

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