Annie and the Hedonists

acoustic blues, vintage jazz, & roots Americana

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Review by Glenn Weiser

Metroland, Albany

Three men of a certain age in Hawaiian shirts and a woman in a purple dress peer out at you from the CD cover, their upright index fingers pressed to their lips enjoining silence. That’s a reference to the title track by Sippie Wallace, which warns against bragging up your lover’s boudoir prowess—it can invite curiosity seekers, after all.

You’ll need no such caution about getting Annie and Hedonists’ latest CD, however.

Although founding members Steve and Betsy Fry have departed folk music’s tastiest cover band, multi-instrumentalists Peter Davis and Don Young have stepped in to join John and Annie Rosen and have contributed some new influences to boot. This becomes apparent from the first track, the early jazz classic “Cakewalking Babies From Home,” when Davis kicks off the peppy tune with a Dixieland clarinet solo that recalls Sidney Bechet. Davis also plays rhythm tenor banjo to give the song an authentic period sound.

After a sidebar into country blues with Claire Lynch’s “Jealousy,” Davis’ clarinet returns to introduce the boozy, woozy “Women Be Wise.” Annie’s vocal delivery judiciously takes after Bonnie Raitt’s crooning 1971 version, rather than Wallace’s Bessie Smith-style blues belting. That kind of power is hard to match even for a singer as good as Rosen.

Steel guitar and dobro deity Kevin Maul adds top-shelf twang to Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s blues, “Tall Skinny Papa.” Maul also shines as he trades licks with Davis’ hot guitar on the gravitas-free western-swing standard “Wah-Hoo,” which is sung by bassist Young in his sole lead vocal.

The quartet’s stylistic range is further evidenced with a bouncy gospel rarity recorded by John Lomax in 1936, E. C. Cortez’s “When I Get Home.” Annie glides through the arching vocal line with ease, and the down-home guitar picking is perfect for the song.

Acoustic music fans be wise and buy this fine disc.