Friday, May 24, 2024

Tina Schlieske: “The Good Life” (2024) CD Review

Tina Schlieske is a singer and songwriter originally from Minneapolis, where she is known for fronting the band Tina And The B-Sides. She also fronts the punk band Genital Panic (their “Pussygrabber” is one of the best anti-Trump songs I’ve heard, using that bastard’s own words against him). And she has released a few solo albums. Her new one, The Good Life, is a departure from what you might expect from this dynamic performer, as she digs into jazz standards, proving she is at home in any genre she chooses to tackle. Joining her on this release are Cody McKinney on bass, Pete Hennig on drums, Bryan Nichols on piano, Jake Baldwin on trumpet, and Brandon Wozniak on saxophone.

She opens the album with its title track, “The Good Life,” a song that Tony Bennett recorded in the early 1960s. Tina Schlieske’s rendition has a beautiful late-night vibe. When she sings “the sadness you feel,” we can feel it in her voice, that ache. I love her approach here. She delivers a gorgeous and moving vocal performance, seeming to live the song, not just present it. “Like the heartache/When you learn you must face them alone/Please remember I still want you.” This track features some really nice work on piano, maintaining that late-night tone. What a wonderful start to the album. The tone then gets lighter with “Witchcraft,” right from the beginning with that work on saxophone. This is a song that is mostly associated with Frank Sinatra. “What good would common sense for it do?” Tina asks. Ah, I can’t answer, and these days I’m not sure common sense is truly all that common anyway. There are moments when she belts out certain lines, demanding our attention, then brings it back to a more intimate feel. “‘Cause there’s no nicer witch than you.” Oh yes, we can hear the desire in her delivery. Kevin Gastonguay joins the group on organ for this one, delivering some good stuff.

Tina Schlieske goes back to a late-night feel with an excellent rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain,” with that warm piano work and the use of brushes on the snare. “I’m glad that you’re back/Don’t explain.” She sounds resigned to the reality, knowing but not wanting to hear certain things. “You know that I love you/And what love endures/All my thoughts are of you/I’m so completely yours.” So beautiful and so sad, and I love how she dips into her lower registers on the word “yours.” What a captivating and true vocal performance. This track also features a wonderful lead on trumpet. “Don’t you know you are my joy and you’re my pain.” That is really the key line in this rendition. We hear both those things in her delivery. Things then get fun with “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” that bass line telling us so right from the start. And I love those touches on trumpet. Perhaps because it follows that song of ache, we are even more ready for the fun vibe of this one. Maybe it takes us farther up than it might ordinarily do. At any rate, this is a delicious rendition, featuring a delightful and strong vocal performance.

She slows things down again with “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,” and now we are on the opposite side of “Don’t Explain,” as she urges that special one not to pay attention to what he or she might hear. Just wait until she gets a chance to explain. “True, I’ve been seen with someone new/But does that mean that I’m untrue?” There is a warmth to this track, and a gentle touch, particularly on piano, which seems to confirm, or reaffirm, what she is saying. And I love the work on saxophone. The music then turns playful and joyful with “Them There Eyes,” a song largely associated with Billie Holiday. This track moves at a good clip. “Ooh ooh baby, them there eyes.” Oh yes! And check out the section where the trumpet and saxophone engage in a wonderful bit of conversation. This track even includes a short drum solo, so everything is right with the world. “You have a certain little cute way of flirting.”

Tina Schlieske returns to a late-night vibe for the romantic “You Go To My Head,” delivering a beautiful vocal performance. “Still I say to myself/Get a hold of yourself/Can’t you see that it never can be.” But we feel that she must be wrong. How could this other person not completely fall for her during this very song? Love is alive, clearly, and love must win every time. What else is there? The album concludes with “Lilac Wine,” which features a strong and captivating vocal performance. “I drink much more than I ought to drink/Because it brings me back you,” she sings in that opening section. Then the song settles into its rhythm, and features some nice work on saxophone. “Listen to me, I cannot see clearly.” Oh, we’re listening, all right. Tina Schlieske has us so easily in her grasp. Will there be more jazz standards coming from her? I certainly hope so.

CD Track List

  1. The Good Life
  2. Witchcraft
  3. Don’t Explain
  4. My Baby Just Cares For Me
  5. Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
  6. Them There Eyes
  7. You Go To My Head
  8. Lilac Wine

The Good Life was released on February 23, 2024, and is available on both CD and vinyl.

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