MAKING A SCENE
by Jim Hynes
Glitter and Grit (featuring Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel)
Rather inexplicably, considering that vocalist Deborah Silver reached #1 in Billboard on both the Traditional Jazz Album and the Heatseeker Album chart with her 2016 release, The Gold Standards, her latest release, Glitter and Grit, where she is backed by Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, has yet to attain a similar buzz. Maybe it’s just late in getting underway because the Mississippi-born Silver’s mastery of the Great American Songbook, plays equally well and arguably even better in this western swing context not only because of her vibrant, exuberant vocals but because of the talents of Ray Benson and his unit, featuring pianist Floyd Domino, pedal steel master Eddie Rivers, and fiddler Dennis Ludiker, among others. Yes, pairing Silver with Asleep at the Wheel works beautifully.
The album is that much more special considering that Silver is a COVID-19 survivor, having won her 58-day battle with the virus. Not only that, but several years also ago she conquered a rare bone disease that had her confined her to a wheelchair for a year. One would never guess given the Las Vegas kind of approach she takes to performing. Here’s what veteran critic Rex Reed has to say about her stage show, “When Deborah Silver takes over a mic, she doesn’t just visit the stage, she owns it! Trust me. With beauty, style, talent, swinging musical savvy, and a bundle of bazazz, Deborah Silver’s got it all in one package. She’s a thrill, a swinging show-biz whirlwind, and a bargain at any price.”
Those who were enthralled with her previous album and the many fans of Asleep at the Wheel alike will savor this recording. This is an album designed to bring joy. Yes, you’ll know most, if not all these tunes as they too, are drawn from the hallowed Great American Songbook. At least two have been released as singles – Gershwin’s swinging “I Got Rhythm” and her danceable “Ballin’ the Jack” where she duets with Benson. Undoubtedly Silver has the swinging numbers down but she has that sultry, nightclub romantic appeal on the ballad and mid-tempo tunes such as “After You’re Gone,” “Embraceable You,” and “Almost Being in Love,” two of the few that stand apart from the mostly other gleefully swinging tunes. Most of the tunes are usually associated with orchestral backdrops with solo spots coming from horns and/or piano. Domino does his part on the latter but it’s refreshing to have many of the other breaks played on fiddle, guitar, or pedal steel.
If there’s a signature AATW sound on the disc, it’s virtually everywhere but listen to the intro to “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” for a prime example. Naturally, she takes on Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” with harmonica ace Mickey Raphael taking a solo as he does on the closer, one of the band’s most played tunes, “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. In between, her sublime take on “Fly Me to the Moon,” buoyed by Domino, Ludiker, and Rivers shows the band at their restrained best.
This album will inevitably bring smiles. We could all use those at this time.