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David Pulizzi
July, 2003

more reviews of Been So Long
Nearly 40 years ago, Toni Lynn Washington had a minor hit on the pop charts with her self-penned doo-wop ditty "Dear Diary".

Subsequently she toured the Southern chitlin circuit with the likes of Jackie Wilson and Sam and Dave. During the early 70s, she toured military bases in Japan and Vietnam. Never hitting the big time, she then took a 20-year hiatus from performing and recording. Returning to the stage in 1992, Washington released a "comeback" disc three years later and has been cooking at a furious - though still largely unnoticed - boil ever since.

On "
Been So Long", the 66-year-old Boston-based singer brings her consistently smooth and rich chops to bear on 13 choice cuts. Produced by journeyman guitarist Duke Robillard and Washington's longtime acquaintance, keyboardist Bruce Bears, Washington's latest release is a fine vehicle for the driving, no-nonsense brand of R&B that's become her stock-in-trade during the past decade.

Regardless of tempo or sentiment, Washington unfailingly demonstrates a wondrous sympathy for the material at hand. She blazes a hot trail through an infectious, eminently danceable cover of the Butler/Gamble/Huff composition "
It's Been A Long Time (Been So Long)," slyly explores the smoldering, sensuous contours of Jon Pousette-Dart's charmingly ribald "Shake Me," and luxuriates in the horn-driven lushness of Bessie Smith's empowering "I Don't Hurt Anymore." Tantalizing elements of funk, gospel, jazz and deep blues are scattered throughout the disc. Old-school sass and class underscore every tune except for Washington's one obvious misfire: A mid-tempo, lightly swinging rendition of "Angel Eyes" that conveys nothing of the song's somber and lonesome heart.

Supported on "
Been So Long" by an entirely competent and frequently inspired assemblage of seasoned musicians, it's quite possible that this well-worn R&B traveler is just now hitting her artistic stride.

"Nearly 40 years ago, Toni Lynn Washington had a minor hit on the pop charts with her self-penned doo-wop ditty Dear Diary."