|Her smile brightens any room she's in; her voice cheers any heart needing a lift. Toni Lynn
Washington has that magical appeal that comes along all too infrequently. She has that ability to make every song
she sings uniquely her own. And, as she sings, Washington makes every listener feel like she is singing only to
you. For some proof of this effect, just cue up track 4 of "Been So Long", and hear how Washington wraps a lifetime around Bessie Smith's "Back
Water Blues". The song builds up from Duke Robillard's acoustic guitar and
Bruce Bear's honky tonk piano into a mournful horn arrangement featuring Scott Aruda on trumpet, Doug James on
baritone Sax, and Gordon Beadle on tenor. Classy musicians backing a classy vocalist. Washington and Bears have
assembled no less than an all-star band for her debut on the NorthernBlues label The sessions were recorded at
Duke's Mood Room Studio in Rhode Island, and you. can sense them relaxed immediacy that Washington has with both
her music and her band.
Washington has always been a versatile talent, and "Been So Long" is as good a showcase as any. There's finger snappin' swing on the opening cut, Buddy Johnson's "I Don't Want Nobody." There's funk on "Down in the Basement". There's 1950s R&B on "I Don't Hurt Anymore." There's seductive swing on the standard "Willow Weep for Me," a bit of New Orleans on Earl King's "Three Can Play the Game," and Stax soul on "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday". There's Southern Rock on the Cate Brothers' "Are You Happy Now" and "It's Been a Long Time", a song Washington sang when she toured Vietnam in the 1970s. And there's a warm tribute to Ruth Brown, one of Washington's mentors, on "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)." This elegant recording is more proof how timeless a good story told by the right singer is.