Picks and Pans Review: Red to Blue

updated 04/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/07/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Leon Redbone

Redbone's posing—he likes to pretend, for instance, that he was a victim of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's—is getting tiresome. All the phony mystery is especially incongruous because Redbone's music is so earthy, a combination of blues and traditional jazz that puts his singing in a class with Jack Teagarden and Clancy Hayes. This album includes a typical Redbone mixture of new tunes, standards and resurrected gems. Notable among the rediscoveries is Reaching for Someone and Not Finding Anyone There by Walter (Makin' Whoopee!) Donaldson and Broadway lyricist Leslie Edgar. Written in 1928, it is wonderfully corny: "Who wouldn't worry?/ Who wouldn't care?/ Heaven is a Hades when you're up in the air." The Roches sing backup in their best neo-Andrews Sisters style. In fact, Redbone gets lots of sturdy support from such people as clarinetist Bobby Gordon, piano player Mac Rebennack, jack-of-all-instruments Vince Giordano and Hank Williams Jr., who adds a bit of spoken dialogue to his dad's old Lovesick Blues. With his growly baritone, Redbone treats the old songs with just enough reverence; for more recent material, such as Bob Dylan's Living the Blues, he adds a refreshing sense of swing and innocence. Forget the dopey hype, Leon; it's your music that counts. (August/ Rounder)

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