BWW CD Review:
Deborah Silver GLITTER AND GRITS Swings, Sings and Shines Like Stars In a Texas Sky
What happens when a Jazz Diva tries on a Ten-Gallon Stetson
I love a good surprise (except for being scared, a favorite pastime of my spouse) and the new Deborah Silver album GLITTER AND GRITS is one of the most pleasant and unexpected of surprises I’ve had in awhile. I guess the title should have given it away, but I truly wasn’t prepared for the rock-a-billy vibe to the CD – when you think about standards and Silver, you have your mind pretty much set on something a little more traditional. This is traditional alright — traditional Texas swing, man! Oh my GOSH, is it refreshing! From Deborah’s opening Gershwin tune, you’ll have your fingers snapping and your toes tapping, and if you’re not dancing within the first 90 seconds, then you’re missing out on something that can only be described as pure fun. And, kids, I WAS dancing — and I was at the gym, so put that picture in your head, why don’t you? Do yourself the favor of allowing yourself to dance… even if you’re at the gym.
Glitter and Grits is a totally appropriate title for the CD because Deborah Silver is rarely seen (in a professional capacity) in anything less than seamlessly crafted glamor, and there is no doubt that the woman has grit. An individual as a person and as a talent, Silver is also a warrior who survived a 58-day isolation with Covid-19, emerging to release the Ray Benson-produced CD. Mr. Benson, famed for an impressive artistic legacy in which he and his band ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL have earned ten Grammy Awards, has created arrangements and orchestrations to which jazz diva Silver takes as though she was born and raised in the land of cowboy boots, Mums, and grits N gravy. Without sacrificing one iota of the jazz efficacy for which she is famous, Deborah gets right down into the Southern sound, no hesitation, no tentative tendencies, she gets into it, and she gets down with it, and (I cannot stress this enough) it is incredible. It would not be a far reach to think that the team on Glitter And Grits might join forces for another album in the future, because, although they might not have dreamed of a partnership of this nature, what they have here is too special to leave at just one album.
The canon of standards that people call The Great American Songbook (a distinction that grows more, and grows more vague, with each passing year) holds specific and personal connections in the hearts and minds of every person who listens to songs like “Embraceable You” and “That Old Black Magic”; whatever their age, whatever the reason they first found this brand of music, everybody loves it for a reason that is all their own. What about the people who don’t usually listen to Judy Garland and don’t know the song “Get Happy”? There are country music fans who probably never heard “Almost Like Being In Love” before. Well, this CD is a perfect way to introduce those people to incredible works of art from the history of songwriting, just like there are jazz listeners and Deborah Silver fans who are going to be introduced to Texas Swing and this dude Ray Benson, who they never heard of before, and, as a result, have their own musical tastes altered. I’ll be doggoned if Deborah Silver isn’t only delivering to the public some damn fine music, she is providing a service by bridging a gap for lovers of different genres of music, educating folks a little, and expanding peoples’ level of experience. I can’t think of a sweeter way to broaden your mind and your artistic tastes.
Mr. Benson and co. are doing work on this CD that is beyond reproach; you could actually take out all of Deborah’s vocal tracks and you would have a heck of an enjoyable album. Take my word for it: removing Deborah’s voice from the tracks would be a mistake of epic proportion. Golly Gee Moses, is this lady special. You know how sometimes you can listen to a singer who has a gorgeous voice but you’re not really sure what emotion is being conveyed, IF any emotion is being conveyed? That’s not Deborah Silver. The quality of the voice is exquisite: you can tell that, even without training, this would be a pretty voice – I mean, if you were standing next to her at a party singing Happy Birthday, you would think “What a pretty voice.” The thing is, though, pretty voice aside, not only has Silver had training, she has an innate instinct for styling and performance, a showomanship that serves the audience, and she has a kinship that serves the music, whether it’s a cheeky “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself a Letter” or a down home “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” (come on, Mama!). Then she layers in the emotion, and even though the upbeat Southern nature of the cd doesn’t leave a lot of room for ballads with all the moony romantic feels, every single track here still touches the place in your heart where you can tell that Deborah Silver was smiling while recording. She was having fun. She was enjoying life.