How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Katherine Davis is a Chicago songstress who digs the blues and jazz in equal measure. Her debut CD Dream Shoes features both forms of music, mostly in combination. It's a mellow but soulful listen, and a very classy effort.
There's a Billie Holiday-like quality to Davis' voice, a kind of lazy vulnerability that underscores the truth in a lyric. For instance, when Davis sings, "Don't you know I love you so," you really feel her love. It's strong, man, it's strong.
Davis favors songs from the '20s and '30s some obscure, some well known that straddle that blues-jazz border. Highlights include a great version of Lil Johnson's racy 1936 song "Press My Button," which contains the less-than-subtle lyric, "Come on baby, let's have some fun/Just put your hotdog in my bun." On this one Davis' is backed solely by talented piano man Joe Johnson, and the song is spunky as all get out.
Also wonderful are a breathtaking take on "Try a Little Tenderness" and an old-timey interpretation of "You Gotta Know How," a tune made famous by Sippie Wallace. On "You Choose," Davis describes her love for both blues and jazz as she wraps her voice around Tatsui Aoki's cool bass while a vocalese quartet croons behind her. Included are two different covers of Duke Ellington's "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart," plus a swinging live version of "The Darktown Strutters' Ball" featuring the piano stylings of Chicago legend Erwin Helfer, who also appears on "You Gotta Know How."
The best song, however, may be the Davis original "Blues and Bulls," a lowdown jazzy ode to Chicago's two highest forms of entertainment. Davis proves she can belt with the best of them on this blues-based tune fueled by a sax-led quartet. Unfortunately for Chicagoans, the lyrics don't carry the same resonance now that Michael Jordan has hung up his jock. Yes, the Bulls are still "the talk of the town," but these days most of the talk is negative.
Katherine Davis is a warm, tasteful singer who breathes new life into some old tunes that are well worth reviving. This one will not disappoint fans of old-fashioned blues or traditional jazz.