|It's lazy to tout one artist's work by comparing it to another's, but it is handy to affirm
that if you like Ruth Brown, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson, you'll like Toni Lynn Washington. Hers is a rich,
toneful voice, her delivery tactful but expressive. This classy 13-cut set teams her with a band comprising five
to seven pieces that includes ever-reliable Duke Robillard (guitarist/producer), Doug James (baritone sax) and
Gordon Beadle (tenor sax).
The opening cut it "I Don't Want Nobody (to Have My Love But You)," a jump number from the Buddy & Ella Johnson book. TLW's dusky singing is accompanied by a guitar-free fivesome. Kudos to her for essaying such vintage material with none of the self-conscious "retro" approach relied on by lesser
singers. Similarly sans contrivance is her take on Bessie Smith's "Back Water Blues" which is dark and almost cinematically innovative of the troubled vistas that are the song's subject. Robillard starts out on acoustic guitar and switches to subtle electric on the third chorus, when the hornmen weigh in. After a solo from Duke, TLW's testimony resumes, with Scott Aruda's torchy trumpet punctuating her lines.
"Everyday Will Be Like A Holiay" is a Staxs soul ballad about a lover's return, originally marketed as a Yuletide item. Now it has an even broader timeliness, given the comings and goings of our military people. TLW's singing is eloquent, as is Beadle's sax solo. The standard "Willow Weep For Me" is sublime, as is that classic envisionment of heartbreak, "Angel Eyes." The later tune is associated with two of the singers most revered by other singers, Little Jimmy Scott and Johnny Adams, which puts it in a realm most vocalist won't go near. But TLW's up to the task. She takes the song at a jauntier than usual pace, but sacrifices none of its clarity as a depiction of loss. The horns sit this one out, as Kev Belz supplies Ellis-esque guitar.
The CD's rocker is "It's Been A Long Time." "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" is a straightup Ruth Brown blues. TLW's declarative singing is bolstered by lanky horns.
In a day when "diva" is as overworked as the delivery of singers who're called that is overwrought, TLW is a tower of tonal maturity, class, and grace. Fans of the human voice who respect those qualities will want this CD.