Sweet Megg: Bluer than Blue

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Sweet Megg

Bluer than Blue

(Turtle Bay Records)

June 12, 2024

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

This one came out of left field. It’s not the usual cabaret or jazz album I’m typically asked to review; it combines western swing, country, and jazz with mostly 1920s to 1950s coloring. The pristine recording (which was done occurred in one room) showcases superb musicians, and the arrangements are impeccably textured.

Songs recorded by Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Stuart Hamblen, and Alberta Hunter to name a few keep company with Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.” Vocalist Sweet Megg has a thoroughly appealing tone—now crystalline, now molasses, then sandy. And it’s fun!

The title song “Bluer Than Blue” (Fred Rose) is one of several that have sad lyrics set to a happy melody. Billy Contreas (fiddle), Justin Poindexter (guitar), and Chris Scruggs (grandson of the alegenryd Earl Scruggs) on lap steel, create western swing that has a decidedly 1920s feel. “Lonesome Hearted Blues” (Lou Wayne/Moon Mullican) is another of these. Its tempo is jitterbug, and its lyrics are melancholy. Dennis Crouch’s thrum-thrum bass, along with the open-throttled fiddle, sinewy guitar, and Chris Gelb’s terpsichorean drums back a two-fisted, declamatory jazz vocal.

“Once More with Feeling” (Kris Kristofferson/Shel Silverstein) is a swaying tune. Megg’s vocal fans out and does a graceful do-sido. There’s a touch of grit in it. The arrangement evokes basement honky-tonk. “San Antonio Rose” (Bob Wills arranged by Sam Chess) giddily twirls. The addition of the back-up chorus conjures a space full of head-bobbing, foot-tapping souls. The instruments come across so that each one has its own character.

Johnny Bond’s “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” bobs on understated tremolos with sweet, lyrical twang. Megg is plaintive, but resolute. It might be a horse going home with its rider asleep, or a rumination by a dying fire. “Please Help Me I’m Falling” (Don Robertson/Hal Blair arranged by Mike Davis) and sung in duet with Timbo is classic country. Feelings are unvarnished. Ricky Alexander’s sax and Contreas’s fiddle evoke the 1950s.

Little Bit” (Sweet Megg/Justin Poindexter) spotlights Chris Scrugg’s steel guitar and Contreas’s now Cajun fiddle. Vocal partner Wild Bill joins Megg to create what seems like a time-honored classic. Megg performs with a shrug and a wink: “a little bit of me just needs a little bit of you.” The Lew Brown/Albert Von Tilzer “It’s All Over Now,” in a harmony duet with Ashley Campbell (Glenn Campbell’s daughter), is jaunty and rhythmic; it’s another 1920s-sounding cut. I swear I hear a kazoo though there’s none listed. The fiddle plays watch-my-dust loop-de-loop. Dalton Ridenhour’s trippling piano adds layers. It’s tart and tough.

“(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You” (Stuart Hamblen arranged by Mike Davis) is a rockabilly love song replete earnest, homespun sentiment. The brass players—Mike Davis on trumpet, Sam Chess on trombone, along with Alexander’s sax—provide sure support. Megg’s vocal slip/slides with pith and purpose.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.