Diana Krall – Glad Rag Doll (2012)

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From its vampy cover image to titles like “There Ain’t No Sweet Man that’s Worth the Salt of My Tears,” this album has the look and feel of a liberated woman pushing back — and hard — against convention.

Good for Diana Krall.

Cue up Glad Rag Doll, a T Bone Burnett production due October 2, 2012 on Verve, and you’ll find a drum-tight band featuring guitarist Marc Ribot that combines to produce some sassy solos and sensitive interplay, all in front of vocals that scald and coo. The inventive track listing moves from forgotten gems from the 1920s and ’30s (including “There Ain’t No Sweet Man,” a Tin Pan Alley romp by Fred Fisher, and Gene Austin’s “Let It Rain”) through to more contemporary sounds like Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue,” and Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Wide River To Cross.”

But you’ll also hear something else: Somebody saying screw the Great American Songbook. Screw the kitteny images long associated with chanteuse records. Screw people who think talented jazz pianists like Krall are debasing their gift by singing at all. And, most of all, screw anyone who tells her how to use her sexuality.

Real freedom, things like Glad Rag Doll make clear, only follows for those who can make their own choices. That’s what fights for justice, large and small, have always been about. The fruits of those pitched battles can be found in moments like this: Krall has fashioned an album of gutsy choices, right down to the cover-girl getup in the style of the Ziegfeld Follies photographs taken by Alfred Cheney Johnston nearly 100 years ago.

That was completely rock ‘n’ roll, back then. Anything but conventional. And, really, it’s still news.

From a certain perspective, maybe none of this makes much sense. What in the world is Krall doing interpreting prewar songs (isn’t she married to a pretty good modern-day songwriter?), or singing (isn’t she a real musician?), or wearing (for goodness sakes!) that outfit?

But another, more nuanced take might be that this as the natural outgrowth of what every rebel from Satchmo to Susan B. Anthony was all about in the first place: Doing what you want, how you want, when you want.

And looking damn fine while you do it.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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