4 1/2 stars
Lorraine Feather is easily one of the most creative lyricists of her generation, and since earning a Grammy nomination for her 2010 CD Ages, the vocalist has gained greater attention from writers who had previously overlooked her contributions. Every one of her CDs is a treat, full of surprising, often humorous song topics and devoid of predictable Moon/June assembly line lyrics, while Feather’s skills as an actress and her infectious, versatile voice add to her appeal.Tales of the Unusual is no exception, with stories that at times test one’s imagination and occasionally flirt with a creepy air. Most of the musicians appearing on Tales of the Unusual have worked with Feather on her earlier recordings, withRussell Ferrante and Shelly Berg alternating on piano. ‘Indiana Lana’ is her vocal setting of Duke Ellington’s ‘Jubilee Stomp,’ first recorded for her CD Dooji Wooji.
This new version is a duet, with Feather’s lively vocal romp about the speedy female runner accompanied by Berg, who shows off his masterful stride chops. The mysterious ‘Out There’ keeps revealing hidden facets as Feather’s lyric unfolds, as does Berg’s captivating tune.
Her haunting ‘I Took Your Hand’ (which adds a lyric to Italian jazz pianist Enrico Pieranunzi’s ‘Fellini’s Waltz’) is a magical ballad with a shimmering backdrop featuring violinist Charles Bisharat’s elegant playing. Ferrante begins ‘The Hole in the Map’ with an eerie flavor, though it quickly takes a comic turn as Feather shares her tale of exploring the Amazon.
‘Get a Room’ is a hilarious swinger that would be a choice song for a romantic comedy. Her tale describes two lovers so taken with one another that everyone they encounter makes the obvious suggestion, while the solos by Berg, guitarist Mike Miller, and Bisharat add to its playfulness. Only Feather can pen a song about a street person writing a love letter on the sidewalk in chalk, as she does in ‘Sweet Miriam,’ while Eddie Arkin’s music is the perfect blend of jaunty nostalgia from the 1920s with Michael Valerio’s delicious arco bass underneath her mesmerizing vocal. Tales of the Unusual demonstrates that Lorraine Feather is not content to settle into a comfort zone; instead, she continues to grow as a lyricist and singer as she tackles new musical challenges with her collaborators.