Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peggy, Slowly (ALbum Review: Jessica Pilnas: Norma Deloris Egstrom, A Tribute to Peggy Lee)

For some reason, I have been thinking about the song "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" lately. Perhaps it's the change of season and the early sunset which is doing this as it is a very contemplative song. For my money, Peggy Lee has the definitive version of that song, and I can't help but compare any other interpretation to hers. So on Jessica Pilnas' Peggy Lee tribute album, "Norma Deloris Egstrom," I was particularly curious about how she sings that song. Pilnas treats it more like an aria (not in a literal operatic sense, but in theory) and for me, it doesn't work. I always think of this song as more internal, and Pilnas' "big" delivery, though with sparse arrangement, just didn't cut it. Actually, she treats the Lee songbook pretty respectfully, with curiously fragile arrangements, even on swinging songs like "This Is A Very Special Day," and "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'." (The latter sounds dragged through) This works on the ballads - a churning "Smile" caught my attention - but the whole album could be mistaken for a funeral march. I know her intention was not to mimic Peggy, but there's no ebullience here, none of the effervescence. I am somewhat reminded of Helen Merrill stylistically, without any of Ms. Merill's gravitas as a singer. Pilnas showcases some of Peggy Lee's lesser known songs, though, like the haunting "There'll Be Another Spring" and the witty "Boston Beans," so it's not a whole wash-out. Miss Lee won't be spinning in her grave, but I doub't she will be dancing for joy either.   

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