A month ago I was in Boston, and one night went to The Burren. In the front room of that venue they have these folk jam sessions that are often pretty great. There are featured musicians, but other folks might sit in for a song or two (or for a set). That night both Josh Lederman and Miss Tess sat in. I’ve long been a fan of Josh Lederman, but hadn’t heard Miss Tess before. The moment she started singing, I was hooked. I was immediately impressed by her vocals, and knew I had to hear more from her.
Sweet Talk is her 2012 release, featuring mostly original material with kind of an old-time feel that is wonderful. On this album she ventures into jazz, country, swing, rock – she can sing anything and own it. I totally dig the vibes of this album, and it is her vocals that are the main attraction for me. There is something classy about her, though that element is not in place of fun. Most of this music is designed to put you in a fantastic mood and get your toes tapping.
Sweet Talk opens with a gorgeous jazzy number titled “Don’t Tell Mama,” beginning with electric guitar and vocals. It’s a totally delightful sound. “There’s a place where we can go/If you just let me show ya/I could really get to know ya.” After a minute it kicks in with a powerful joy that will grab you straight away. “Don’t tell mama about the things that I said/Don’t tell papa about the things that we did/Don’t tell the lord in the heavens above/They don’t need to know that we’ve been making love.” There is also some really nice work on drums. “I found a hundred ways just to turn you on.” Oh yes!
Miss Tess follows that with a peppy country tune, “I Never Thought I’d Be Lonely,” and the good times continue. This tune has such a bright feel, even as she sings, “I never thought that I’d be lonely/I never thought that I’d be blue/Once I found my one and only/Once I settled down with you.” I really like this tune, even though it rhymes “self” with “shelf,” something that almost always feels awkward. (Someday I’ll compile a list of all the songs that rely on that rhyme.) Raphael McGregor plays lap steel on this track. (McGregor also plays lap steel on “Everybody’s Darling.”)
“Adeline” begins with some groovy stuff on drums and bass, and I’m immediately on board. This is my personal favorite track, in large part because of the exceptional vocal line. Miss Tess does some really interesting stuff vocally here. But the overall sound is so bloody wonderful. It’s a very cool tune. There’s even a bass solo. So strap on those dancing feet and turn the stereo up. I hope I get to see her perform this one in concert.
Miss Tess surprises me with a rock and roll tune, “People Come Here For Gold.” It has something of an early rock and roll vibe, and it is a lot of fun. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “People don’t come here to settle down/They don’t come here to grow old/People come here to be beautiful/People come here for gold.” This track was written by Miss Tess and Phil Madeira.
“Introduction” is a cool bass solo that’s approximately a minute long, and which then goes directly into “This Affair.” “This Affair” has a sexy jazz feel, with some nice stuff on guitar, particularly during the instrumental section.
Miss Tess returns to country for “Save Me St. Peter.” (Of course, there should be a comma in the title; otherwise it’s like she’s asking someone to set aside St. Peter for her.) This song has a delicious, sweet, slow groove, and features Thomas Bryan Eaton on pedal steel. “You walk on water and I’ll stand if I can/I’ll leave walking on water to you, my good man.” (According to the legend, St. Peter walked on water until his faith wavered, causing him to sink.) And I dig this line: “A sea full of barstools is all I can find.” But my favorite line is, “And you’ll tell me my future when the timing is right.” This is one of my favorite tracks.
“New Orleans” is another highlight of this album. There are lots of love songs aimed at New Orleans, and it’s totally understandable. It’s a great city, with a romantic and sexy vibe to it. When you think of New Orleans, you think of drinking, of dancing, of fucking, and of excellent music. This track captures something of that energy and vibe. (There is also something that reminds me of the flavor of some of the music from Chicago. I’m picturing Catherine Zeta-Jones while listening to it. Okay, I admit, I’m often picturing Catherine Zeta-Jones anyway, but you get the idea.) And I really dig the piano on this track.
Sweet Talk ends with its only cover, “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire,” a slow, sexy late-night number written by Eddie Durham, Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus and Ed Seiler. “I have lost all ambition for worldly acclaim/I just wanna be the one you love.” The Ink Spots had a hit with this one. Miss Tess does a really pretty rendition, and drops the spoken word section.
CD Track List
- Don’t Tell Mama
- I Never Thought I’d Be Lonely
- If You Wanna Be My Man
- People Come Here For Gold
- This Affair
- Save Me St. Peter
- Everybody’s Darling
- New Orleans
- I Don’t Want to Set The World On Fire
Miss Tess plays rhythm guitar and performs lead vocals. Will Graefe is on electric guitar and vocals. Danny Weller is on upright bass, electric bass and vocals. Matt Meyer is on drums, percussion and vocals. Sam Kassirer is on organ and piano.
Sweet Talk was released on October 16, 2012.