Little Hearts
Summer Bloom Records

July 23, 2010
Written by Phum

Beyond Song Fatigue (vocal Jazz CDs reviewed)

The Toronto singer -- who performs tonight at the Mercury Lounge at 7 p.m. -- is the vocalist of this batch most willing to break from the comforts and gravitational pull of the Great American Songbook. The only standard Butcher covers on her new disc is Irving Berlin's What'll I Do, and her arrangement operates at the level of genre, converting the song into a countrified twanger thanks to Rob Piltch's guitar.

What then does Butcher focus on? She writes her own material, and she's also keen making recent pop music her own. It's worth noting that overall, regardless of what Butcher's tackling, she has no qualms about making jazz with plenty of pop overtones, and six of the 11 tracks are four minutes or less as per the preferences of radio.

Some of Butcher's covers will hit 30-and 40-somethings -- Canadian ones in particular -- as familiar and perhaps even clever. Glass Tiger's Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone) has been slowed down and turned into a something of a torch song. Bryan Adam's Run To You has been Latinized. The Bacharach/David tune Walk On By is slower, more minor. Playing to a younger demographic, Butcher also offers a bubbly cover of Lily Allen's Smile.

And then there are her six originals, which in general are jazz-tinged pop rather than vice versa. The disc's opener Joy In My Heart is sassy, winning soul-pop, enlivened by punchy horns. The upbeat Better Kisser, which closes the CD, is country pop with glockenspiel and melodica added for colour. Hush is a bolero sung coolly. Simple Love seems crafted to recall 1970s pop, right down to the muffled drums, smooth horns and strummed guitar. The Last Word is a New Orleans-style groover that was co-written with and also features the voice and piano romping Michael Kaeshammer. (I Ain't In The Mood For) No DJ is a slow swinger, with Phil Dwyer's horn arranging and Michael Shand's bluesy piano solo mitigating the somewhat arch jazz affirmations of Butcher's lyrics. As a tribute to "cats who can play," the song's well-intentioned, but it feels a touch forced to me as well.

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