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I must admit I was not expecting to like this record. Firstly, the accompanying press release suggests that it's "headed for coffee tables everywhere". As I don't have a coffee table, I felt a bit disenfranchised.Also the opening track was set to be a cover of "Blue Moon", a song for which I've long harboured an unreasonable hatred.
Little did I know I was about to experience the musical equivalent of a Radox Bath. Within a few minutes I'd sunk deep into the recesses of the sofa; my frown had disappeared, I was relaxed, looked ten years younger and all my hair had grown back. Well maybe the last two are slight exaggerations, but there's little doubt that this album can (if used sensibly) induce the kind of profound sense of wellbeing thata Norah Jones record can only hint at.
As The Sun Shines Down on Medoes inhabit the same kind of musical territory that Ms Jones does, though of courseDankworth's jazz credentials run much deeper. This is reflected in her choice of material ("My Ship", "Teach Me Tonight", "In A Sentimental Mood") but more crucially in her vocal delivery, which is near perfect throughout.
Dankworthkeeps the listener focussed on the song's narrative while displaying a considerable yet unforced dexterity, reminiscent of Chris Connor or some of Claire Martin's earlier recordings. Like Martin, there's a slightly erotic charge to some of her singing ("Teach me Tonight" probably shouldn't be on in the car while your Dad's driving for safety reasons), but it's coupled with a deep understanding of her material, which also takes in a few originals and a spot of singer songwriter introspection (Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell).
Ms Dankworth's band is headed up by guitarist Mike Outram, whose elegant playing references bossa nova, country music and the more tasteful side of fusion. He's a nimble, accomplished soloist and a sensitive accompanist, capable of pastel washes, shimmering folky chords or juicy bop lines. Drummer Roy Dodds (longtime Eddi Reader accomplice) is a valuable presence too.
This is easy listening in the best sense of the word; Jacqui Dankworth might not shift the same amount of units as Norah Jones, but it's quality that matters, not quantity. Lovely.