Vocalist Alison Ruble has gathered a strong set of jazz and folk-rock songs for her second Origin Records release.
After displaying her diverse musical taste on her 2008 debut, This is a Bird
, Ruble drives home the point that she is as comfortable reinterpreting the American songbook as she is covering recent songs by Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt.
Ruble also continues to work with some of Chicago's top musicians, including guitarist John McLean, who did all the arrangements on Ashland
The 10-track, ballad-rich album opens with the languid "The Summer Knows" by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Michel Legrand. The song comes from the score to "Summer of '42" and has been recorded by a number of artists over the years. Ruble's version begins with just her voice and McLean's guitar. From there, different layers are added, most notably the impressive flute solos by Jim Gailloreto. With the song clocking in at nearly seven minutes, Ruble and her band have time to delve into the nuances of the song.
They take a similar patient approach on the Harold Arlen classic "Let's Fall in Love." The song begins slowly with Ruble singing a capella. As different instruments are introduced, the song gathers energy, with Ruble's vocals leading the way and flute solos adding spark to the old song.
Throughout the album, the singer and her band create an intimate atmosphere.
Ruble's musical interests also lead her to more contemporary songs, including Harris' "Here I Am" and Raitt's "Tangled and Dark." A less obvious and less successful choice is King Crimson's "Matte Kudasai."
She gets back on track with Bobby Troup's classic "Route 66." Ruble's version has a slight rock-blues touch, distinguishing it from the countless other renditions of the song.
She closes the album with Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonseome When You Go," one of the album highlights. Like the rest of Ashland
, the song is a team effort with Ruble's voice resting on the rich tapestry of McLean's acoustic guitar, Larry Kohut's bass, and Jill Kaeding's cello.
That's not to say that Ruble is overshadowed. She delivers Dylan's line, "I'll look for you in Honolulu, San Francisco, and Ashtabula. You're gonna have to leave me now I know" with perfect wistfulness.
Ruble is a subtle, confident vocalist. She doesn't scat or shout. Instead, she chooses to make every word count.