I’m delighted to tell you about a new Rebecca Kilgore CD, delicious and new. I’ve repeated NEW in the first sentence for a reason: MOONSHADOW DANCE is not only a new plastic artifact in a new cardboard sleeve, but it contains new music — songs by Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and Rebecca herself.
The idea of the singer-songwriter is such a familiar one in the last half-century that I won’t make a fuss about it. However, our Rebecca has made her wondrous reputation by singing “the Great American Songbook,” which in most cases has meant songs from the late Twenties to the late Fifties, with some exceptions. And for most CD-buyers and audience members, that has meant a certain amount of comfort. Rebecca is a happily curious Songhound — she searches out deserving songs whether they are rare or familiar, and they glisten when she sings them. But at a concert, for instance, I can almost feel the audience sigh with pleasure when Rebecca finishes the verse of a Rodgers and Hart song and tenderly makes her way into the chorus. “A beloved friend,” is our unspoken response, our happiness at hearing something we have the most tender feelings for.
It is of course possible and even delightful to devote one’s career to singing or playing the familiar. Louis never got tired of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, and Hot Lips Page is reputed to have said, “The material is immaterial.” But the great pleasure of this new CD, MOONSHADOW DANCE, is that almost every song is a new creation by Vanderslice, Horsfall, and Kilgore.
But before any reader panics and snorts, “New songs? Why doesn’t anyone sing any of the great old songs anymore?” and reaches for a familiar sheaf of 78s . . . here’s some pleasing evidence that “new” doesn’t have to mean “loud,” “coarse,” or “postmodern,”when the songs are written by the masterful Ellen Vanderslice, Mike Horsfall, and our Rebecca:
Not only do you hear Rebecca’s silken voice, but the melody and lyrics are beautifully crafted — no cliches, either musical or lyrical — but with a certain fresh flair, so that a listener doesn’t think for a moment, “Wow, that turn of phrase must have been the cat’s meow or the cat’s pajamas in 1929.” Rather, this song and the fifteen others on this disc are musically substantial but not imitations of older songs, and the lyrics sound the way an elegant, witty speaker of this century might talk.
A digression about the video: words and music by Ellen Vanderslice, music by Mike Horsfall. Musicians are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Todd Strait, drums; Dan Balmer, guitar; Mike Horsfall, vibraphone / arrangement. The wonderful dancers are Rachel Lidskog-Lim and Jack Lim. (I am a literal-minded type, so I was relieved that the pasta did not get overcooked and gummy and that Rachel and Jack — unlike me — can cook so neatly that they don’t mess up their formal clothes.)
Back to the CD. On it, you’ll hear wry portraits of contemporary life (a blues about the civilization and its discontents) that are mildly reminiscent of Portland’s master viewer-at-a-slant, Dave Frishberg, but there are plenty of songs about songwriters’ favorite subject: love. There’s ONE LITTLE KISS, AEOLIAN SHADE, I’M NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO LOVE, UM MINUTO A MAIS (ONE MINUTE MORE), TO HAVE, TO HOLD, TO LOVE, ONE MORE TIME TO SAY GOODBYE, and the even more emphatic THAT’S IT! There’s also what I believe is the first recorded performance of Rebecca’s multilingual fantasy, THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH. And I already have found myself humming BIRTHDAY SONG, GENERIC, which has a hilarious punchline.
The instrumental accompaniment from Randy Porter, Tom Wakeling, Todd Strait, Dan Balmer, Israel Annoh, Steve Christofferson, Marco DeCarvalho, David Evans, Mike Horsfall, Tim Jensen, Mike Horsfall, John Moak, and Dick Titterington is first-rate: singer Susanna Mars joins in on YOU MAKE IT LOOK SO EASY.
It’s a very rewarding CD, full of small sweet / tangy surprises. I predict that some of the “new” songs” will become memorable friends in one or two listening.
Now — if you live in Portland, Oregon, and are reading this early on Sunday, January 31, 2016, you have a special opportunity to enjoy this music in an experience larger than your earbuds: a concert from 2-4 PM, with Rebecca, Randy Porter, Todd Strait, Tom Wakeling, Mike Horsfall and other musicians, as well as dancers Rachel and Tim from the video above. Details here at the bottom of the page. Also on that same page you will find links to help you purchase the CD as a disc or download.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get dressed up and cook some pasta. And MOONSHADOW DANCE will be the entirely fitting soundtrack.
May your happiness increase!