It's amazing that out of the clutter of an industrial urban center like Chicago, a voice as serene and unruffled as Alison Ruble's can exist. For her debut recording, the opulent vocalist teams up with guitarist extraordinaire/producer John McLean for an intriguing journey through a collection of timeless American classics.
The song selection, a mix of standard jazz fare and modern pop numbers, seems to suit Ruble's understated approach. McLean's acoustic guitar and stripped-down arrangements present fresh takes on the familiar and not-so-familiar. The opening "Interlude" invokes a Brazilian vibe, while Cole Porter's "So In Love" has a subdued hypnotic effect courtesy of McLean's droning accompaniment. The funky groove on "If I Had You" shows off Ruble's swinging capabilities. "Skylark" floats along with a carefree momentum. Jim Gailloreto's well-placed alto flute fills complement Ruble's unhurried phrasing and McLean's sympathetic comping. "Always Something There to Remind Me" opens with percussionist Geraldo De Oliveira's fine-tuned congas before Ruble explores the familiar Burt Bacharach staple.
The tension-building, folk-rock sensibilities of "Lazy Afternoon" contrast nicely with the straight-ahead, strolling duet between Ruble and bassist Larry Kohut on "It's Magic." Kohut's playing throughout is inventive while maintaining solid support.
Pianist Jo Ann Daugherty adds a lyrical presence, especially on the sensitive piano/voice duet "This Nearly Was Mine." Drummer Tim Davis provides a solid, low-profile pocket.
This Is A Bird is an impressive debut from a fresh voice worthy of wider recognition.