I have waxed rhapsodically about the Tierney Sutton Band before. How can you not? This group of true musicians (Tierney Sutton, vocals; Christian Jacob, piano; Ray Brinker, percussion; Trey Henry, bass; and Kevin Axt, (also) bass) consistently challenge themselves to take the familiar, find the essence of the song, and interpret it in a way that has not been heard before. And they consistently succeed. When a new album of theirs hits the market, you not only know it's going to be stunning, you ask "How can they top the last one?"
I won't say they have topped "Desire," or "On the Other Side." I will say that they have added a very worthy complement to those superb albums, with another superb one.
In this c.d., the T.S. Band's theme is America. They have gone off to look for America. But they have done considerably more than take a four-day hitchhike from Saginaw.
Finding America means finding its roots. And that means finding its folk source (e.g., "Wayfaring Strangers" and "Shenandoah"), but also its spirituality (e.g., "The Water is Wide" and "Amazing Grace," that most spiritual of all hymns). And to emphasize the source, it means hearing the similarities between "The Water Is Wide" and "Shenandoah," and combining them into one.
Finding America means exploring the golden ages of American music, meaning the '30's and the '60's. So, the T.S. Band gives us a swingin' jazz version of the neglected Arlen classic, "The Eagle and Me." Even more, the Band gives us a set of Gershwin, but puts a rock back beat to "It Ain't Necessarily So." But the '60's was also a golden era of jazz (along with the late '50's), and for all the many ways "Summertime" has been interpreted, this is the first modal jazz re-visit of the classic I've ever heard.
Finding America means celebrating Broadway. The T.S. Band tributes Bernstein (though, ironically, not with "I Like to Be in America"), with a beautiful read of one of the master's most beautiful songs, "Somewhere," and a mix of "Something's Coming" and "Cool." And, to bring the strands together, the Band re-creates the Brill Building's "On Broadway," with a rock backbeat and odd four-chord crash that echoes and expands the George Benson reinterpretation of this classic.
And finding America means contemplation of the vast country. So we have the country classic, "Tenderly," done exquisitely. This is my favorite cut on the c.d. It doesn't make me forget Sarah Vaughan or Nat King Cole's versions, but it certainly reminds me of them.
And as the perfect ending to this stunning album, the Band gives us a Tierney Sutton-Christian Jacob duet of the most beautiful of all patriotic hymns, "America The Beautiful." This is a wowser. Listen to it once; then on the next play, sing along with it. If you are in tears, as I was, then you just might be an American.
I have no doubt that this will be nominated for a Grammy. "Desire" should have won. It's the Tierney Sutton Band's time. RC