Weathering The Storm feels like an appropriate title for the delightful new collaboration between singer Jo Harrop and guitarist Jamie McCredie given the turbulent times we are living through. But it’s also a reference to the human emotions referenced in this collection of songs; mostly jazz standards, but with a few more modern songs thrown in to keep things fresh.
The album has a late-night feel, so it’s no surprise to learn that many of these songs were recorded post-gig in McCredie’s London studio. “Two of the biggest touchstones for Weathering The Storm were the duets albums by Bill Evans and Tony Bennett and Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald,” Harrop reveals. “You can hear such a close emotional connection on those records.” There’s also a hint of the classic Julie London recordings with Barney Kessel (and Ray Leatherwood on bass) from Julie Is Her Name (1955). And make no mistake, this new album holds its own in such elevated company.
The album opens My Foolish Heart, which Evans and Bennett recorded back in 1975. Harrop references the musical telepathy that was apparent when the two of them started working together, and that can be heard clearly here; McCredie plays delicately beneath Harrop’s vocal as she sets the scene, before weaving more intricate lines as the song progresses, before delivering a sublime solo.
I Fall In Love is a torch classic that works well in such an intimate setting. There’s a sweet smokiness to the vocal that suggests that Harrop is indeed weathering the storm, as she lingers over the lovelorn lyrics.
Tenderly was written by Walter Gross, with lyrics by Jack Lawrence. Whilst it’s been sung many times, I associate the tune with Ella Fitzgerald, and the version here made me swear she’d performed it with Joe Pass. She originally performed it with Louis Armstrong, of course, but the gentle swing delivered here works perfectly.
Take It With Me was written by the great Tom Waits, and appears in a gruffer version on Mule Variations (1999). It was a song ripe to be rediscovered, and is one of the highlights of the album, Harrop making the song her own. Gorgeous.
You can watch a preview of the album, including live clips, here:
Guilty was written by another great songwriter, Randy Newman, but originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt on Takin’ My Time back in 1973. The version here maintains Raitt’s bluesy feel, but the more intimate, stripped back arrangement works well and there’s a fine solo by McCredie, too.
More Than You Know, despite being recorded many times, is one of the lesser-known standards, and it’s good to hear it again here. You Must Believe In Spring was also recorded by Evans and Bennett. This version opens with a lengthy introduction by the guitarist, before Harrop comes in, her phrasing quite exquisite.
Charade is a lovely waltz by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and another highlight for me, showcasing the musical intimacy between the two musicians. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning needs no introduction, and has a Julie London feel here, which fits well with the tone of the album. If by David Gates brings the album to a close; it’s performed beautifully, but feels slightly out of place here, and perhaps doesn’t work so well in a jazz setting.
But that’s a minor complaint. Weathering The Storm is one of the best vocal albums I’ve heard this year. Harrop’s voice gets better each time I hear her, and the intimacy of these recordings makes that clear. In McCredie she has found a perfect musical partner; his playing here is fantastic throughout, delicate and understated, but still delivering solos as lyrical as these songs deserve. Highly recommended.