Sunny Crownover and her aptly-named Joy Boys are an anachronism of the very best sort – absolutely pitch-perfect purveyors of music that had grown old-fashioned by the time most of them were born.
Discovered by swing guitar god Duke Robillard, who produced and guests on the disc, Sunny and company bring a silken elegance to a collection of early jazz tunes made famous by the likes of Billie Holiday, Maxine Sullivan, and Ivy Anderson, fronting bands like Ellington’s and Basie’s.
There are any number of revivalist outfits dedicated to recreating an earlier era, of course, but Sunny and Her Boy Toys don’t sound at all as though they’re visiting; apart from crystal-clear sound and a warm recorded presence, this stuff could easily have been recorded some sixty or seventy years ago. It’s not just ‘authentic’ – it’s real.
Sunny’s vocals have a delightful languor – she doesn’t so much deliver her lines as caress them – and her Boys provide absolutely impeccable support. Archtop guitarists Robillard and Paul Kolesnikow trade leads and lay down easy-going rhythms, while Robillard’s frequent cohort, Jesse Williams, handling acoustic (naturally) bass. Billy Novick weaves in and out on clarinet and alto saxophone with stunningly lovely delicacy throughout.
Well-chosen material includes some familiar tunes (“You’re My Thrill,” “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)”) and others equally romantic, all given gently swaying, almost dream-like treatments that sway and swing with gossamer ease.
Revivalist ensembles tend to approach a project like this with reverence that all too often feels likable but lifeless; Sunny Crownover and Her Joy Boys seem to inhabit the era on display, with the recorded results warm and inviting and brimming with life. A bit old-fashioned, perhaps, but elegance and romance never really go out of style.
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