Now that it’s getting colder, we often think about last summer which seemed to be endless with Gina being outside all day and living a happy dog’s life. One of the albums I completely overlooked during the busy summer months is the latest by singer Karrin Allyson, “Some Of That Sunshine”, with the title track summing up what we had: “So wrap up some of that sunshine, it’ll come in handy on a rainy day.”
I’ve been following Karrin’s career since she first started out on the 1993 Concord Records release “I Didn’t Know About You”. One of the most sympathetic aspects of her artistry is the repertoire she chooses for her projects. Even though she always finds something new in tried and tested classics, like the Richard Rodgers epic “It Might As Well Be Spring” which she delivered in an instantly swinging, direct and no-frills approach, she also added tunes by Randy Newman or Janis Ian (the beautiful “Jesse”) to the mix. She also is known for incorporating both French and Brazilian songs, probably best shown on the 1999 album “From Paris To Rio” and the 2008 “Imagina: Songs Of Brazil”.
In my review of her last album, the 2015 Rodgers&Hammerstein collection, I wrote that “I can’t help thinking though that she is much better with tackling more contemporary songwriters, Brazilian composers, or her own work.” Her new album is the first which features all-original material, many with co-writer Chris Caswell (who also plays organ). Karrin writes in the liner notes that she “…started writing songs before I discovered jazz…I don’t know why I stopped writing…In hindsight, I think it was insecurity”. There is no insecurity on these 13 pretty intimate tracks, as witnessed for example on the beautiful ballad “As Long As I Know You Love Me”. The album starts out on a bluesy groove with “Wish You Were Mine” and is a cool mixture of uptempo, fun tunes and more atmospheric, tender and slow pieces. I really like violinist Regina Carter‘s optimistic, hopeful solo on the title track.
There is plenty of drama, excitement and urgency on “Shake It Up” and there is at least one potential future classic: “Just As Well” sounds like a song for the ages, an immaculate ballad, timeless in its understatement and simply very classy. Needless to say that tenor sax giant Houston Person is the perfect companion here. And the next highlight follows suit: “Time Is A Funny Thing” is equally as impressive, with Rod Fleeman‘s guitar and Miro Sprague‘s piano miraculously turning the song into a loose, yet pretty dense and floating ballad. Lee Sklar‘s phat bass can be heard on the finger-snappin’ “One Of These Days”. And keeping it all together, there is this clarity in Karrin’s voice and her amazing intonation. On “Nobody Said Love Was Easy”, she is telling a story about a couple’s relationship with its ups and downs, soulfully complemented by Houston Person.
I also like the very personal “Happy Now”, the third of my faves on this set, a tune which brings me back to the late 70s and classic singer/songwriters such as Carole King or Judie Tzuke. Very nice piano on this one, too. Her home turf can be found on “Right Here, Right Now”, coming out of the Kansas City blues scene, a rather solid affair here. “You Don’t Want Me” sounds like a lullaby set in a country style and actually suits her very well. Regina plays some dexterously shimmering solo. Politics, social equality and the #MeToo effects are part of the album’s closer, “Big Discount”.