The late Billie Holiday inspired writers to honor her by coining
the phrase "The Lady sings the blues," but Shelly Bhushan
evokes more of the sentiment "The Lady has groove." Like Holiday,
Bhushan has a voice that reaches as far as a rocket's flair glare. Both
women are trailblazers when it comes to singing blues, soul, and pop melodies
but Bhushan's laments have a unique upbeat tilt to them that magnetically
causes her to bounce back from any bout of melancholia transcribed in
Her full length album Picking Daisies, on RedCard Records and
produced by guitarist James Cruz, has a wealth of material from
soul-jazz to R&B/funk, acoustic rock, and even a twinge of square
dancing country, or what Brookes & Dunn refer to as boot-scoot-boogie.
The interfacing of intricate orchestral riffs, spruces of piano hooks,
reefs of horns and rhythmic dunes creates lush arrangements filled with
life. There is so much taken from life in these songs that it doesn't
matter if you're a fan of jazz or soul. The album has well crafted songs
that transcend musical tastes.
"Perfect Stranger" starts the album off with a funky/R&B
groove emanating from the sprinkling piano keys and rhythmic movements
which take a back seat to the enchanting bongo solo. Bhushan's vocals
plunge, nuzzle, serenade, and smother over the melodic passages like a
woman inflamed with emotion. Her sultry vocal curls on "Little Piece"
are smoking and become nurturing on the title track and "Beautiful
Me." The songs are like nourishment for the soul especially when
she breaks into the acoustic session of "Birthday Suit" and
recites, "Dressed up in my birthday suit/ It's the first day of my
life/ Don't expect you to understand/ Been here a thousand times
I walked away from fear that kept chasing me all these year." Her
words inspire the depth in the arrangements.
The jazz-pop ballad "Not To Me" begins with a soft, fluid tempo
then shifts gears into a full blown symphony bloating the chord progression
and jet-skiing the vocal action. The thicket of strings and horn whorls
on "Time To Go Home" paraglide through the soul-jazz-cratered
peaks and troughs creating a deep caressive motion. The gospel-soul intonations
on "Show Me A Sign" have an Oleta James-style phrasing
and the blues-soul ballad "It's Over" is primped with melodic
strips of hierarchical strings balanced by earthy piano spruces. The final
track "The Nest" has a catchy square dancing beat flanked by
emotive vocal grooves to match and polished upbeat guitar slants. It's
a number you can't get out of your head once it goes in.
Picking Daisies is the follow up to Bhushan's 2005 EP The Shelly
Show. Her band includes John Celentano (drums), Ben Hoffstein
(organ/piano), and Harry Cordew (bassist/backup vocals) with guest
appearances by Rob Moose (violin), Martha Colby (cello),
Greg Glassman (trumpet), Ian Young (alto saxophone), Dimitri
Moderbacher (tenor/baritone saxophone), and guitarists James Cruz,
Mark Turrigiano, and Oscar Bautista. The album puts Shelly
Bhushan's best foot forward and leads the listener to wonder why these
songs aren't played on their favorite radio stations. Soul-jazz isn't
usually a format played on Top 40 radio but after hearing Picking Daisies,
I just can't tell you why.
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