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Be aware and beware from the get-go: Tales of the Unusual, from Grammy nominee Lorraine Feather, is indeed deep, dark and different. The Anne Rice-like black and white cover shot parlayed with the spooky title augur that what is to follow is a foray into a song-world of stories told inside-out and upside-down.
The magic here is the marvelousno, deliciousmanner in which Feather, with incredible vocal skill, dynamic shading and inflection, maneuvers through her own lyric queendom. Inspired from sources a diverse as a Twilight Zone episode and a Fellini flick, these thirteen original selectionsan eerie and apropos total for certainweaving their own tales, ripe for Feather's brilliant flourishing.
Feather's abilities as a lyricist and vocalist nonpareil are well-established and confirmed, with the same lingual emphasis here as on her previous celebrated Jazzed Media releases, Language (2008) and Ages (2010). She can vocally twist, turn and ultimately mine a lyric nugget to spin golda good witch's alchemy worked in darker shadows.
Tales of the Unusual's melodies display a siren-like quirkinessmore angular than smooth, more dissonant than sweet with refined rhythmic diversity. Yet, each lineand in some cases each wordseems perfectly balanced on a high wire of emotion. The stylistic and art-song nature of the compositions touch upon various musical genres including ragtime, speak-rap, theatrical, silent-movie romantic, Latin, and straight-ahead jazz, as well as varied story types. Engaged and involving, Feather's vocal character and flexibility beautify and validate her oddball lyrics.
The superb compositional offerings from Eddie Arkin and pianists Russell Ferrante of the Yellowjackets and Shelly Berg fit hand-in-black-glove with Feather's fables. The pianists' respective instrumental support is excellent and restrained, allowing Feather's melodic and lyric playfulness to remain paramount. They are as masterfully important contributing here as they were on Feather's previous offerings.
With Tales of the Unusual, Feather has delivered another significant and unique vocal effort, pulled from her seemingly boundless vault of talent.
Track Listing: The Hole in the Map; Off-the-Grid Girl; Where is Everybody?; The Usual Suspects; Five; Sweet Miriam; Out There; Get a Room; Cowbirds; I Took Your Hand (Fellini's Waltz); Indiana Lana; To Live Another Day; Ahh.
Personnel: Lorraine Feather: vocals, lyricist; Russell Ferrante: piano (1-6, 9, 12, 13), arranger (1, 4, 5, 9, 13); Shelley Berg: piano and arrangements (7, 8, 10, 11); Michael Valerio: bass (1-10, 12); Grant Geissman: guitar (1-6, 12); Mike Miller: guitar (7, 8); Michael Shapiro: drums (1-5, 12), percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 12); Gregg Field: drums (6, 7, 8, 10) Charles Bisharat: violin (1-3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12); Lorraine Feather: background vocals (1, 5, 7, 13); Carlos Del Rosario: background vocals (13); Eddie Arkin: arranger (2, 3, 6, 12).