Paula Harris – Speakeasy (2019)

Paula Harris - Speakeasy (2019)
Artist: Paula Harris
Album: Speakeasy
Genre: Vocal Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 2019
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight 04:50
I Wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow (For Raising Hell Tonight) 04:06
Haunted 04:39
Good Morning Heartache 06:27
Soul-Sucking Man 04:07
This Love Is Gonna Do Me In 06:00
A Mind Of Her Own 03:32
Something Wicked 04:43
Trouble Maker 04:07
Round Midnight 05:06
You Don’t Look A Day Over Fabulous 05:25
Do Me Good 04:47
More Than You’ll Ever Know 05:15
Forever And A Day 04:40
Scratches On Your Back 04:08
Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby 04:12

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The blues can make us feel good, and though all conscious people in this country are currently suffering from some serious blues, this music can help lift us up a bit, particularly when delivered by a powerful female voice. Paula Harris is a vocalist of tremendous power and style, knowing just when to be smooth and when to let it rip. Her new album, Speakeasy, features a lot of original material, though it is full of classic vibes and sounds. Joining the vocalist on this release are Nate Ginsberg on piano, Rich Girard on acoustic bass, and Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on drums, as well as special guests on a few tracks. It is a thoroughly enjoyable album, and a perfect choice to help pull us all out of this country’s bleak and miserable mess, at least for a while.

The disc kicks off with “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight,” and right away this music establishes a wonderful groove. Paula Harris’ vocal approach is at first intimate, even conspiratorial, pulling us in before she then begins to belt out the lyrics. Oh yes, she has us in her hands straight away, and not a one of us wishes to escape. You can tell from her delivery that a whole lot of good stuff is going to happen after midnight. After, before, during, just so long as we stick with this woman. This song was written by Paula Harris and Nate Ginsberg, and features some wonderful stuff on piano by Nate. That’s followed by “I Wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow (For Raising Hell Tonight),” also written by Paula Harris and Nate Ginsberg. A funky, cool bass line gets this playful track off to a great start. “I’m gonna party with my friends/Like the world ain’t going to end/And act like there ain’t no sorrow/Because, baby, that can come tomorrow.”

Then Paula Harris delivers a gorgeous and moving song titled “Haunted,” another original number. And “haunted” is right; I am haunted by her vocal performance here. She is good. “And you’ll be haunted with thoughts of me/Haunted by my memories/Haunted, haunted, haunted/Wait and see.” Yeah, she is sure of herself here, and so she should be. Is there any question but that the man will be thinking of her? And when she sings that she can make it on her own, I have no doubt that that’s true. This is such a great song. “Soul-Sucking Man” is a fun, lively number. And when Paula sings “I know what’s good for me and baby it ain’t you,” I want to dedicate this song from the good people of America to Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party. “And I’m hip to your game/And I know temptation is your middle name.” Christopher “Kid” Anderson plays bongos on this one. “A Mind Of Her Own” is another fun tune, this one written by Scotty Wright. It features some cool stuff on keys. The line “You want to dislocate his head” made me laugh out loud the first time I listened to this album. And these lines strike a strong chord especially these days: “A woman is not a possession/She acts by her free will/And she knows just what to do/When she’s got a need to fill.” The line “Well, baby, those days are dead and gone” is not so certain anymore. This country is taking giant leaps into the terrible past with regards to women’s rights and equality.

There is something sexy and sly about “Something Wicked,” particularly that horn. That’s Bill Ortiz on trumpet. And of course Paula Harris’ vocals are fantastic, so seductive and wonderful. “Black hair and eyes of green/All my thoughts turned obscene.” This song’s title and title line are references to Macbeth, so I love this track even more. And suddenly in the middle, another vocalist comes in, Big Llou Johnson, delivering a strange poetry section that feels like something to be played at the sexiest of Halloween parties. And he ends that section with the line from Macbeth, “Something wicked this way comes.” Delicious! And that trumpet is so bloody cool. This is one of the album’s best tracks. I just completely love it. And they are clearly having a lot of fun with it. That’s followed by “Trouble Maker,” a track that rocks and sways. It comes on strong and doesn’t let up, the piano being the driving force. I love the way Paula delivers certain lines, like “You can’t fall in love without risking a heartbreak” and “Trouble maker, irresistible to me.” Then there is even a bit of scat. Yup, it’s a cool track from beginning to end.

“You Don’t Look A Day Over Fabulous” is a delightful and playful tune. The lines “You don’t look a day over fabulous/And you’ll be beautiful until the day you die” express just exactly the way I feel about my girlfriend. Somehow as she gets older she is becoming even more beautiful. I don’t know how she does it. This track features some delicious work on bass and some wonderful touches on keys. This is a song that makes me smile every time I hear it. “He thinks I’m perfect/I think he’s sweet.” Another delicious groove gets “Do Me Good” going. As bright and cheerful as the sound is, in this one she expresses doubts about her man, about her relationship. Well, based on the sound, which makes me feel optimistic, I think it’s all going to work out just fine. After all, how can things go wrong when you’re dancing and moving to this beat? There is a nice little jam toward the end. The instruments sound like they’re smiling, don’t they? I feel like that bass line is going to buy me a beer. And then Paula belts out some lines. Ah, so nice.

The rest of the tracks on this disc are listed as bonus tracks, apparently only available on the CD (so not digitally?). It still strikes me as odd to label a track a “bonus track” on an album’s initial release, but no matter. The first of these tracks is a cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” Written by Al Kooper, this song appeared on Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 LP Child Is Father To The Man. Paula Harris does an excellent job with it, and when she dips into her lower registers, I get shivers. Her voice rises to some spectacular heights on this track too. There is so much passion in her voice when she sings “I love you more than you’ll ever know,” leaving no doubt whatsoever that what she says is true. That is followed by “Forever And A Day,” with Bill Ortiz joining the group again on trumpet. Then “Scratches On Your Back” is a song about an infidelity that is obvious, but the man still offers denial after denial. I do, however, appreciate the man’s explanation for the unfamiliar panties wrapped up in the woman’s sheets. “You say it’s a secret that you keep/Because you get kinky all alone/And you put those panties on.” The disc concludes with a delicious cover of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” featuring some wonderful stuff on piano.
by Michael Doherty

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