RICK’S PICKS: Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (Verve) / Bassist: Dennis Crouch
The Album: If you can allow yourself room to get out of any comfort zone you may have regarding Diana’s music, then her new album, which is pretty much nothing like anything she’s recorded before, is an absolute delight. Drawing on 1920’s era material, Krall holds off on her usual formats of swinging quartet or string-backed bossas and ballads, and opts for a grittier, guitar-driven saloon jazz scenario. It seems all that’s missing on Glad Rag Doll is the crackle and pop of hard vinyl from a century ago.
Krall is, as always, masterful with phrasing and understatement, and her deliberate piano and sultry Shirley Horn-steeped vocals are always at the core of what makes her the best at what she does. Lyrically, heartbreak and loneliness are themes on Glad Rag, delivered via torch songs and stompy two-step blues. Producer T Bone Burnett is at the helm, and if there’s anything we’ve come to expect from him, it’s an ear for frame-working excellent songs. Several of Burnett’s often-used cast of excellent studio musicians are on hand, with great guitar work from Mark Ribot often dictating the mood. The result is markedly different than the last time Diana strayed this far stylistically (2004’s The Girl In The Other Room with husband Elvis); the repertoire here is deep and the album’s concept works on every level. An extra half-star for the killer front cover photo.
The Bassist: Dennis Crouch’s upright is big and bold, and together with drummer Jay Bellerose the rhythm section sounds like two dirt-shovelers reveling in toiling the earth together. Unlike most of Diana’s albums (often featuring bassist John Clayton), there are no bass solos here, but why bother? Crouch’s expressiveness abounds with every note he plays.
Best tracks: “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye”, “You Know–I Know Ev’rything’s Made For Love”, “Prairie Lullaby”, “Wide River To Cross”