For those who have been longing for a revival of the Andrews Sisters style of singing (and surely Christina Aguilera's "Candyman" whetted a few appetites) the Puppini Sisters' second album, The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo
, will be right up their alley. The Sisters, one from Italy and two from England and none related, employ the sound of old groups like the Andrews and the Boswells, yet with a modern sensibility that keeps it from being merely a gimmick. They have the tight harmonies and vocal swoops and scats down pat and the small combo behind them, often just drums, bass, and the occasional guitar, provides the sparse backing that lets the vocals take the foreground. The album evokes a small club rather than the bandstand.
That being said, the Puppinis are a lot less sunny than the Andrews Sisters ever were, preferring the more melancholy aspects of jazz singing. Tunes like "Spooky" and "Soho Nights" recall the soundtrack to The Triplets of Bellville, a Puppini influence, with their Parisian cafï sensibility and melancholy tone, but the trio isn't afraid to tackle a steamy blues numbers or a Manilow song. The Sisters do wonderful things with "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" which, aside from the quotes from modern tunes, sounds like it could have come straight from Ellington's bandstand. Conversely, the band tackles some campy classics, and while a cover of "Walk Like An Egyptian" wears out its welcome, their version of Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" works much better than expected and is a highlight of the second half. In addition to all the songs from other pens, the Sisters each contribute a song a piece, each of which demonstrate a keen songwriting ability. Marcella Puppini's "And She Sang" is an especially lovely tune.
The Puppini Sisters got their start with a cover of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" but have shown with this release that they can be more than just imitators. In fact, this might be what the Boswells would have sounded like were they getting their start today, although they might have had the good sense to avoid the Bangles.
Personnel: Marcella Puppini, Kate Mullins, Stephanie O'Brien: vocals; various others.