Sound Advice Reviews
Listening to Something Stupid and something cool
Colin Donnell and Patti Murin name their mix of solos and duets after the included "Somethin' Stupid" (the "g" restored to the first word), an old duet hit for Frank and Nancy Sinatra. "Something Cool" suits cool jazz singer Libby York who, in interviews, cites June Christy's style and that song titling her signature album as influences.
COLIN DONNELL & PATTI MURIN
A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll, plus a generous helping of musical theatre and Disney movies, Something Stupid is something that's an amiable mixed bag. Theatre stars Colin Donnell and Patti Murin–singing solos and duets–are agreeable company as the chameleons in this collection sampling familiar material from various styles and decades. It isn't about breaking new ground; their interpretations and the Luke Williams arrangements echo the famous forebears. However, especially due to the vitality and commitment of the vocals, things generally come across more as being warm remembrances instead of merely warmed-over rehashes.
The variety, in tone and energies, ranges from his hard-driving raw sounds on "Because the Night" (Bruce Springsteen/ Patti Smith) to her gentleness and pensive musings in reaction to becoming a mother in "Everything Changes" from Waitress. Married since 2015, the two pair up here for coy portraits of two couples: one well past their honeymoon's shelf life (the country-flavored "Jackson") and the other cautiously courting ("Somethin' Stupid"). While wearing these second-hand musical clothes can give us a fun wallow in nostalgia, we might want more creativity from theatre-experienced actors. The copycat route arguably feels more entrenched when artists take on the same melding of two old songs once memorably blended by veterans. In this case, it was Frank Sinatra, matched on his late-career, big-selling Duets II album with country artist Lorrie Morgan for a mash-up of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" and "My Funny Valentine," see-sawing them back and forth and in counterpoint. The new recording adopts the specialty extended tag and two other one-word variations in the classic Rodgers & Hart item irrevocably linked to this month's romance-centric special day. More adventurous is a postscript to the Donnell solo on Paul Simon's wistful "America" with a duet mini-reprise of Jason Robert Brown's "And I Will Follow," drivingly done as a female solo vocal earlier.
A nod to Patti Murin's two years as Anna in the Broadway adaptation of the animated film Frozen is her choice of "The Next Right Thing" from the movie sequel Frozen II. Going beyond just the assets of her sweet timbre, the track benefits from dramatic involvement and an effective build. The other sugar-free dip into Disney has both performers ably taking on Tangled's folk-tinged joy in "I See the Light."
Well produced by Broadway Records' A&R head, Robbie Rozelle, sound is crisp and clear among the voices and separately recorded/layered work by 16 musicians. It's always interesting to find recordings by those we know as musical theatre performers stepping outside the Shubert Alley kind of lane as they ride along in their other comfort zones in pop music and let us also imagine them in other stage roles. Something Stupid offers two title characters in portraits of frustration and consequential choices: Colin Donnell essaying "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George and Patti Murin taking flight with a nuanced "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife. Separately or together, their talents are evident.
A pro with precise phrasing that gets the most out of key words and images in a lyric, a master of the mini-pause, Libby York has a sound that is decidedly mellow and mature. The savvy stylist breathily highlights some words in a state that approaches or crosses the border between sung and spoken without losing the essence of the musical line. DreamLand is cozy and inviting, savvy and sophisticated. The understatedly graceful accompaniment of just guitarist Randy Napoleon and bassist Rodney Whitaker, and the subtle drumming of Keith Hall on four tracks keep things intimate and low-key. This is the fifth solo release (the first was in 1999) for the tasteful vocalist who got a late start at the game.
Sensitive material such as "Something Cool" and "When October Goes" suits her penchant for pensive material that she can take her time with, mulling over feelings. The vulnerability in the voice and the ambiance of the settings projected by Messrs Napoleon and Whitaker are impressive. On the other hand, they can be offhand and breezy, with a seemingly effortless nimble swing, zipping through Rodgers & Hart's "Mountain Greenery" and "It's Love" from Wonderful Town.
The unfussy, less-is-more M.O. throughout Libby York's DreamLand makes it the ideal choice to ease into your day and wind down with on the other end, especially with–respectively and conveniently–"Cloudy Morning" and the title-inspiring "Hit the Road to Dreamland."