Annie Sellick goes out on a tall limb and boldly says "Nana Nana Boo Boo, I’m doing something completely different." She hooks up with the Nashville-based Hot Club Band to create a magically fun musical experience. "Annie and the Hot Club - Plays the Music of Tom Sturdevant" is the real deal. It is a fun loving, story telling, toe tapping, tear jerking, sit back and enjoy experience for the listener. A certified "less of the same" endeavor.
Many artists refuse to stray from the style that brought initial success. They often will take a deep dive to explore all they can in their comfort zone. Makes sense, right? Why vary and put the fragile and cherished fan base at risk. There is a sense of safety and comfort to live by the "more of the same" mantra. Not Annie....
So, it takes a big set of .... let’s just say "lungs" to stray from the predictable, comfortable spaces that most fans want in their music.
But for the Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder listeners, (this writer included) when a familiar artist tries something new, we say "hot damn," especially when the new direction oozes with the artist’s passion from the first downbeat through the resonance of the last vanishing note.
Fallen hard into the original music quest, Ms. Sellick searches for music appealing to her. She has always performed with an intense "live the lyrics" passion so this is a natural direction. Up until know, Annie has given us mostly music inspired from the American Songbook. This was "all good" and a track she could have ridden for many years with much success. But NO!
Not having to travel far, Annie found Tom Sturdevant, a Nashville-based songwriter. The two clicked right away and the result is a delightfully original and highly creative set of music from Annie, written for Annie, chosen specifically by Annie. How rare is this in the musical choices we are offered in the mainstream today? Listen to the writing; the lyrics are captivating and believable. There is at least one life story that will relate to each listener.
Opening with "Sugar", Annie and the Hot Club Band get the blood flowing, body moving and face smiling. Who doesn’t want a little sugar, however it is defined? Short, playful solos are then taken as a quick way to introduce us to the fabulous Hot Club Band musicians.
Settle into the CD with "I Love You", the most romantic three words in history. Picture Annie and composer, collaborator Tom Sturdevant sharing the piano bench while rehearsing and you get a sense of the informal, "let’s just sing a song together" feel captured here. Pat Bergeson sprinkles in his tasteful harmonica skills to take us out.
Next, "Mystery of Love" has several parts that catch the ear. First, the steady but eerie rhythm just creates the feel of a mystery. Love, whether young, old, simple, complicated, has yet to be completely explained. Nice effort of laying it down for us. Love is just a mystery, any questions? Second, any vocalist willing and able to incorporate the Kazoo into a project is just plain cool and unencumbered by conformity. Way to go Annie! Less Cowbell.... More Kazoo!
Does Aaron Till’s Violin invoke a longing, pleading voice searching for validation on "He Loves Me I Can Tell" or is it a sassy confidence? Can’t tell. How about you? Then, mid-tune, this voice suddenly switches to a happy dancing heart. So which is it? Annie’s secret for now.
Whispering can be singing, right? "Pussycats and Moonbeams" is delivered with an intensely quiet passion. The guitar accompaniment keeps things moving at the perfect pace, just above motionless: Wonderfully relaxing!
In "Wish I" you can feel the song actually breathing through the delicate and hypnotic touch of Jeff Taylor’s accordion work. Wonderful, subtle Latin feel to the beat. Great love song. Other vocalists will want to use this song. Just a great song!
Enough of the longing and wishing, how about some more upbeat happy stuff? Enter "Chickadee and Cockadoodledoo". Toes again tap and the Hot Club Band shows off its playing with a circle of "it’s your turn, now my turn" soloing leaves you wanting more.
Annie takes us directly into the likely common story of a "Full Moon Saturday Night." Marinated in a seductive tango-feel is the story of two people separate before the night begins but with similar plans for the evening. Arriving separately, being alone does not last for long. Is this chance or planned?
Then there has to be a story about an old "codger" who still has what it takes to keep life interesting. "Henry McIntyre" still looks forward to his Saturday Nights out on the town. Simple routine but just what Henry likes, just the way Henry likes it. Certainly Henry has more stories to tell but there just wasn’t enough time here.
"Lonely," who doesn’t have a story to tell about this feeling? The picture here is Annie leaning against a porch post, band sitting behind her on some chairs in a circle, lots going on around her. This is a song that the singer is singing to herself and if we get to listen fine, but she really doesn’t care. The blues feel here is one that lingers long after the closing notes.
It has been said that eyes are the window to the soul. Next comes two compositions dealing with this head on. First, "What My Eyes Might Say," the title tells it all. Just listen for yourself. Then, Annie tells us about "Last Night I Cried My Eyes Out." Set in a comfortable form for a sad love song, the waltz, Annie then regroups to take control of the issue, and gets over her heartbreak, takes us up tempo and moves on. Again, each band mate celebrates with individual solo contributions.
This project closes with the most unique sound of the mix. At first listen, this song screams to join the list of lullabies that will put the young infant to sleep at night. With an old Irish tune flavor, it is as it is titled, "Simply Beautiful."
In today’s world of instant access to information, a quick internet search can tell you more about the amazing musicians on this recording than space here allows. Suffice it to say, the way Richard, Pat, Charlie, Aaron, Tom, and Jeff play together shows the musicianship of both individual as well as group play. They provide what it takes to contribute to each other and deliver a single unified experience for the listener.
Annie Sellick and Hot Club Band, gives us a patchwork quilt of music certain to warm your heart, put a lift in your step, a tear in your eye and a smile on your face. Get cozy and enjoy. If you are a true fan you will appreciate the artist, not by the number of familiar works, but by the stretch and risk the artist is willing to take.
Keep going Annie!