“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” with its catchy Duke Ellington melody and Bob Russell’s words has been around for around eighty years—give or take a year. (The words were added after its 1940 creation as an instrumental titled “Never No Lament.”) Although it’s about being a self-protecting, depressed stay-at-home in the aftermath of a romantic break-up, these downer shutdown days it may have an unintended new meaning. And that must have echoed with extra nagging irony for singer Deborah Silver when, after she recorded it for her Glitter & Grits collection, she came down with COVID-19, only recovering after weeks of symptoms and complete isolation.
Side Note: I’m reminded of all the above by the appearance a few days ago of the second version of a separate song project of hers (not on Glitter & Grits). It is a number called “Covid-19 Blues,” which she co-wrote and recorded with Dennis Lambert; with more celebrity voices, a new incarnation of this hope-infused resilient reaction to the reality we share is now available. Proceeds from purchases of downloads are donated to The Actors Fund and The Jazz Alliance. You can buy the new remix here..
Now let’s get back to the full-length release which I’d put in the “welcome surprise” category, coming from someone I thought had hitchhiked her way onto the chanteuse bandwagon but veered towards Vegas, more glitz than this titular Grits or guts. I’d procrastinated listening, then finally proceeded with caution with this set of mostly show tunes and standards, having a heads-up as to what I was headed for hearing. Publicity told me that the classics had been re-branded by Mississippi-raised nightclub performer Deborah Silver in collaboration with members of Asleep at the Wheel, the longtime Texas Swing group, the whole shebang produced by its leader, Ray Benson. I feared an eye-rolling reaction that would be kinda OMG in meeting up with G & G. I need not have worried. The gal has reclaimed her twang, jumps in gleefully and sure-footedly, and the mood is playful and full-on party as, crucially, the songs not only survive, they thrive. With flavorful fiddle and harmonica for old-timey country capering, the jamboree is cheeky and charming.
Dating from 1930 are two gems from the Gershwin brothers’ score to Girl Crazy, “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You,” as well as the Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler adviso to “Get Happy.” Also from the Arlen catalogue are a pair with Johnny Mercer’s lyrics: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “That Old Black Magic.” With all this darn joy, wouldn’t y’all expect “Almost Like Being in Love,” the Brigadoon burst of bliss, to be even more exultant than it usually is? Instead, it’s a cool-down moment, relaxed and reflective rather than robust, and is thus very affecting. And the examination of feelings arguably extends to permitting “I guess my mind’s more at ease” to be the line that is the silver lining in the potential party-pooper blue mood of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” more shrugged-off than wallowed in.
Seeking depth and drama? Better move along. But, along with above-mentioned Glitter & Grits grin-inducers, there are a few more rousers and there’s certainly a pervasive slyness that includes Ray Benson joining in vocally for the 108-year-old step-by-step dance instruction of “Ballin’ the Jack.” All told, the 13 elements of the cute hootenanny can be infectious and make us give in to an all-grin/no-grouse house rule. I surrender.