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They've played behind a tip jar for the better part of ten years now, this vibrant four woman string band that carries a torch for the songs of Cole Porter. But now a decade of strumming, fiddling and wailing in juke box dives and dingy bars has come to fruition for Ruth and the Colettes, with the release of their debut CD, Subcutaneous, on Loma Alta Records.
The CD's back cover photo of the band shows four rather stout muumuu-clad women of the middle-aged persuasion: Ruth Leahy, rhythm guitar and vocals; Juanita Johnson, lead guitar; Evelyn Lamuraglia, violin; and Nadine Malone, bass. The gals are lined up in front of a back country Indian casino (one of The Colette's regular venues), golden California sunshine flashing off the four fresh bouffants, as they brandish their instruments and grin as if they know they are on the fast track to wider recognition with the release of the new CD.
The set opens with the plaintive cry of Evelyn (Lamb Chop) Lamuraglia's violin, a strung-out whine that leads into one of Cole Porter's finest tunes, "I've Got You Under My Skin." And no disrespect intended to Old Blue Eyes, but Ruth and the Colette's take on the song may have to be considered the definitive one. Ruth Leahy, with her rich, somewhat gritty contralto, belts the tune out over a fluid and loose-jointed accompaniment, and The Colettes add some gloriously love- struck yodeling behind the lead's proclamation that she would: "...sacrifice anything come what might for the sake of having you near."
The CD also features fine takes on Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?", "Just One of Those Things," "In the Still of the Night" and more.
Ruth and the Colettes will be doing a short west coast tour this month. If they come to your town, DO NOT miss them. Their live show is a marvel. This reviewer was lucky enough to catch them a few weeks ago at the River Side Casino in Laughlin, Nevada, where the girls played (behind a tip jar, alas) for the entertainment of the sluggish line outside the $7.99 all you can eat prime rib buffet. They wrapped up a sizzling version of "Anything Goes" and were rollicking into an up-tempo "Let's Do It, (Let's Fall in Love)", when a grizzled, bleary-eyed beef lover in line behind me called out: "Sweetheart, why don't you and your fat-assed friends give it a rest; you're givin' me a headache."
The band played on, but Ruth responded to the request by stalking down andwith a left jab lead followed by a thunderous right crossknocking the old boy out cold. He lay there bleeding, and Ruth bounced back onto the stage with the rosy blush of high emotion on her cheeks and resumed her microphone, and advised the slow flow of the prime rib-bound to just do it, just fall in love.
Marvelous! Check them out. You'll get a kick out of Ruth and the Colettes.
Track Listing: I've Got You Under My Skin, What is This Thing Called Love?, Just One of Those Things, In the Still
of the Night, Too Darned Hot, From This Moment On, Get Out of Town, Begin the Bequine, All of You
Personnel: Ruth Leahy, rhythm guitar and vocals; Evelyn Lamuraglia, violin; Juanita Johnson, lead guitar;
Nadine Malone, bass
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.