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Rachael & Vilray

Saturday, December 7, 2019, 2:30 AM

with Akie Bermiss
Rachael & Vilray feels like a rare old vinyl gem that a curious collector found hidden in the dusty bins of some second-hand record shop and decided to share with the world, an unearthed jazz-vocal treasure. Even if listeners are in on part of the secret and already know Rachael Price as lead vocalist of Lake Street Dive or as a frequent musical guest on NPRs Live from Here, they will surely want to research these marvelous yet utterly unfamiliar songs she and guitarist-singer-composer Vilray (pronounced VILL-ree, no last name needed) perform together. These tunes seem to have been pulled from some hitherto undiscovered chapter of the American Songbook; one might assume that a little Googling will surely yield an intriguing provenance, a colorful story behind each of them.There is indeed a story behind these songs and the formation of this gifted duo, one that is arguably even more fascinating than any lesson in obscure musical history, since ten out of these twelve tracks were written by Vilray himself, expressly for this project. (There are two vintage covers that fit in seamlessly with his workCuban composer Pedro Junco Jr.s 1943 Nosotros and Milton Drake/Louis Atlers I Love the Way Youre Breaking My Heart, first popularized by one of Prices idols, Peggy Lee.) Vilray is very much a contemporary composer who can truly evoke, not merely imitate, Tin Pan Alley tunes from the thirties and forties, a period that he and Price have both long been passionate about. These songs are truly transporting: One can easily believe they could have been plucked from the soundtrack of a Hollywood musical filmed in glorious black and white or from a now-forgotten Broadway show that briefly lit up the Great White Way. But the fact that they are utterly original makes them all the more impressive and even more delightful to hear.The album is a dreamy, warm, inviting set from two good friends who share a unique sensibility as well as a mic. Though they recorded the album with Lake Street Dive pianist Akie Bermiss, a rhythm section, and a small complement of horns, the other players keep a discreet distance, never disrupting the intimacy of this enterprise. They do make room for guest star Jon Batiste to contribute a jaunty piano solo to Go On Shining, but otherwise its all about the playful vocal back and forth between Price and Vilray, with tempos that facilitate dancing cheek to cheek and lyrics that are sophisticated but never arch, by turns naughty and nice. Theres a sly wink to many of them, but the punchlines are always subtle. Vilray cleverly manages to quote Jean-Paul Sartres infamous hell is other people quip during the generally sunny Alone At Last; the narrator of At Your Mothers House cheerfully threatens some amusingly diabolical revenge against a spurned lover. Theres a lot of period-appropriate referencing of romance, but the approach is more worldly-wise than starry-eyed. After all, the final track is called Theres No True Love.Price and Vilray first met in 2003 as students at the New England Conservatory of Music. He formed a couple of bands with Prices soon-to-be bandmates in Lake Street Dive, Mike Calabrese and Mike McDuck Olson. Even then, Price recalls, Vilray had a nimble mind and quick wit when it came to lyrics: Thats when I knew Vilray was a good songwriter. They would do random clicks on Wikipedia and when they found something interesting, they would write a song about itsay, the cold-blooded rat of Somalia. Vilray was able to take any subject and write excellent poetry about it, funny rhymes, and he would sing the songs. I thought he was so goodhe could just apply himself to anything.But at school, says Price, I didnt know that Vilray and I shared a love of this particular time period of jazz. It was all I liked to listen before I got there and everyone at school was listening to more avant garde, free stuff that I had yet to be exposed to. So I hid my love of traditional jazz music. I didnt know

Cost: $25 ADV / $28 DOS
Tickets: http://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=7219&awinaffid=137486&clickref=&p=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.stubhub.com%2Frachael-vilray-tickets-rachael-vilray-portland-mississippi-studios-12-6-2019%2Fevent%2F104267654%2F

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