Of course this had to happen.
Annie Bandez and Baby Dee are two of the most fascinating underground divas ever to grace the world of popular music, so the prospect of a joint album was more than ebough to thrill the aficionados.
That album is now with us. Called "State Of Grace", it is a stone cold classic.
It contains eight co-writes and two covers, a surprising Stevie Wonder ballad ansda perfectly apt gospel track by Sister Wynona Carr. Little Annie takes on the majority of vocal duties, while Baby Dee accompanies her on piano, Hammond organ and backing vocals, stepping up to the microphone only for the second version of the title-track. On some numbers, however, this core duo is joined by a fully-fledged band comprising strings, guitar, saxophones and a double bass-fuelled rhythm section.
This is all very well, but is there a bame for this noise? We could call it torch-blues. Annie and Dee pool their respective styles and ably mix chanson, blues abs cabaret into a beautifully balanced whole. The album lasts thirty-five minutes, and not a single second goes wasted.
Yet this is not only about the art of songwriting. The record also boasts very expressive singing and lyric writing. Little Annie rasps and coos her way into every nook and cranny of these songa, sounding positively imbued with the spirit of the late, great Nina Simone. She is joined by a soulful Bonnie Prince Billy for the first version of the title-track, while Baby Dee displays her deliciously crumpled Sinatra-isms on the equally essential second take of the same song.
As for the lyrics, they would have made Hubert Selby Jr very, very happy. A gallery of desperate characters peoples the songs, yet none of them will go gently into that good bight. They prefer to fight against all odds, even if proof of their defeat is clearly evident. "State" is an album about regret, memory and resilience, a journal of crumbling certainties in love and life, where redemption is glimpsed through waves of existential fear. There is no self-pity, though, because these characters always keep their heads high; the clarity of their words and the heartfelt, gently defiant tone portray fading beauty and impending old age in the most effective and poignant way.
Behind the pain, the pathos and bravado there is a tiny, flickering light.
It still refuses to go out.
Key tracks: Perfect Gift, Gown Of Lights, Back In The Day, State Of Grace (pts 1- 2)