~ The challenge in recording a CD of standards is for the artist to put his / her own personal spin on the songs. In other words, make the listener disassociate the song from past classical versions and embrace the new interpretation being proffered by the current artist. More important, the artist should not try to imitate a previous version. Molly Johnson is, in large part, successful in achieving these goals with the dozen pre-1950's standards and one 1960's selection on her 2008 CD "Lucky".
~ A major factor contributing to the success of this CD is the variety of arrangements provided by the band members. Mike Downes (bass) arranged four songs, Mark McClean (drums and percussion) four songs, Phil Dwyer (piano & tenor sax) four songs, and "the trio" is credited with "additional arrangements". The instrumentation is sparse but each musician is in excellent form. Each of these arrangers has a unique style, and the producer has wisely chosen to sequence the tracks in a way that highlights the variety of the arrangements. In many ways the arrangements and production values remind me of early recordings by two other great Canadian singers: Diana Krall and, my favourite, Holly Cole. Special note must be made regarding Dwyer's earthy sax, which adds a funky flavour to several tracks, and McClean's percussion, which adds colour and texture to every track.
~ Molly Johnson's vocals fit in nicely with the arrangements, but it takes some getting used to. The texture of Molly's voice sometimes sounds like she is trying to emulate some favourite 1940's - 1950's singers like Dinah Washington or late-stage Billie Holiday. In that sense, Molly's voice and her delivery differ considerably from many of her modern peers who seem to favour a smoother vocal quality and delivery. Once you get used to the voice, the CD is enjoyable and warrants repeated listening.