Jitterbug Vipers – Phoebe’s Dream (2013)

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A patently weird, completely loveable group of retro-cool Austin hipsters, Jitterbug Vipers sounds like Norah Jones sitting in with Django Reinhardt.

But don’t misunderstand the point of the sly, deeply intelligent Phoebe’s Dream. This isn’t presented from a winking distance, or with a sense of ironic detachment. Instead, the Jitterbug Vipers throw themselves head long into the fizzy word play of Cab Calloway, the bawdy themes of Fats Waller and the utterly danceable throwback grooves of Count Basie — connecting it all through their own uniquely offbeat personalities.

The band is fronted by the yin-and-yang duo of guitarist Slim Richey (who boasts a ZZ Top beard, and a knack for genre-jumping asides) and the simmering chanteuse Sarah Sharp, also the group’s principal songwriter. the Jitterbug Vipers are rounded out by bassist Meaux Jeaux, Slim’s rainbow-haired wife of 25 years; and drummer Masumi Jones, a brilliantly eruptive force. Both Sharp and Jones attended Berkee, bolstering the idea that Phoebe’s Dream is not inside joke — no matter its hilarious storylines.

For instance, there’s “Stuff It,” a track co-written with Elizabeth McQueen of Asleep At The Wheel that extrolls the virtues of overfilling both pipe and bra when you’re feeling down. They’ve also included a drunkard’s next-day confessional in “That Was The Sauce Talking.” Each moment, however, is perfectly attenuated — as fun as it is memorably executed.

Meanwhile, “When You’re High” plumbs the dusky depths of desire, even as “Django’s Birthday” finds Slim working in exquisite detail. The set is rounded out by smart updates of Billie Holliday’s “Billie’s Blues” as well as “Undecided,” which skips along at a pace that almost certainly would have brought a glimmer to the eye of Ella Fitzgerald.

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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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