Catherine Russell

Sentimental Streak

On her second CD, songstress Catherine Russell really does show her “sentimental streak” as 12 of the 14 songs date from the 78 RPM era and, true to their origins, clock in at around three minutes each. Backed by some stellar musicians in various groupings, Russell (the daughter of famed ’30s bandleader Luis Russell), works her magic on songs recorded by such singers as Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Frank Sinatra, Nellie Lutcher, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. Tackling a number like Smith’s “Kitchen Man,” a double-entendre paean to a departing chef/lover, took a lot of nerve as Russell isn’t a big-voiced chanteuse. However, she digs in and the result is terrific. She alternates between such sassy fare as Lutcher’s “You Better Watch Yourself, Bub,” Hunter’s “My Old Daddy’s Got a Brand New Way to Love” (a marvelous duet with pianist Mark Shane), “South to a Warmer Place” (from a Sinatra radio check), and Horne’s “Thrill Me” (“Handle me with skill, bend me to your will”). In homage to her dad she opens with a number recorded in 1938 when his band backed up Louis Armstrong, a bouncy “So Little Time (So Much to Do)” with a septet providing admirable assistance.