If I’m a singer, especially one whose work, as Catherine Dupuis says, is “based on the essence of each lyric,” and whose songs are chosen “because of what they have to say,” the last thing I’d want is to have to shout my way through a clamorous rhythm section to be heard. On the other hand, when Dupuis can be clearly understood on her (presumed) debut disc, as on the Gershwins’ enchanting ballad “For You, For Me, Forevermore” (which for some inscrutable reason she pairs with Sting’s “I Was Brought to My Senses“) and some of the other less frenetic numbers, one finds himself wishing that the rhythm section were more assertive. Dupuis writes that she and arranger Jeff Klitz “found a way to translate [the lyrics] into notes, chord progressions and rhythms, shaping the songs into small stories.” Sounds good on paper, somewhat less so in translation. The rhythm section tends to overshadow her voice, and when it doesn’t, Dupuis’ approach to a lyric (listen for example, to “Lucky to Be Me,” “Too Marvelous for Words” or “I Hear Music”) is sometimes appreciably wide of the mark. If, as she says, the lyric is of paramount importance, her explication of it shouldn’t detract from one’s attention to the story, but in many cases it does exactly that. Sinatra knew how to handle a lyric with respect; others should follow his example (without, of course, endeavoring to become a mirror image). Dupuis fares better on the lesser–known tunes, perhaps because one has no basis on which to assess her treatment of them. These include “Sequined Mermaid Dress” (although here again, the rhythm section usually has the upper hand) and “Last Go ’Round,” both written by David Cantor. There are flashes of proficiency and insight here, but they are too infrequent to earn a positive endorsement. Dupuis has some work ahead of her, but the building blocks are in place. Let’s see what develops.
Track listing: I Hear Music; Sequined Mermaid Dance; Let’s Face the Music and Dance; I Love You; For You, For Me, Forevermore / I Was Brought to My Senses; My Romance; Too Marvelous for Words; Two for the Road; I Could Write a Book; My Favorite Things; Lucky to Be Me; Last Go ’Round; I’m Beginning to See the Light (50:18).
Catherine Dupuis, vocals; Bill Mays, piano; Jon Burr, bass; Terry Clarke, drums; Tomas Ulrich, cello (