What do Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton have to do with each other? Well, in short, it is the brainchild concept of debut vocalist Jacqui Sutton, and she brands her unique sound as Frontier Jazz and calls herself a Jazzgrass Chic. Jazz and bluegrass melding is not a new concept completely, it has been performed instrumentally by Béla Fleck, but what Sutton offers is the next step, a vocal reading that you can hear the joy in her voice coming through each cut.
Sutton employed composer Henry Darragh to assist
her with putting her ideas down on paper. The two have cooked up a jambalaya of tasty sounds and textures. Even though the CD is named Billie&
Dolly the two namesakes only bookend the release, Billie’s “God Bless the Child” is cut #1 and Parton’s “Endless Stream of Tears” closes out the journey. In between the bookends are songs from the American Songbook, from the world of musical theater, and a science song written for children.
“Black Hole” comes from a collection of songs about the science of astronomy by contemporary composer David Haines, Sutton gives it a swampy feel supported by horn lines and the swank of banjo.
“Risk” from bluegrass man F.M. Turner a cut featured on his album Igniter is re‐treated by Sutton at a slower pace with elements of R&B grooves splashed across the canvas to create a new work of art. The songs from composer Danny Ashkenasi are included in this embodiment of work,” Keeper of Your Love”, ” Sweep Me Off My Feet” and from the play, beTwixt, beTween & beTWAIN “Mississippi Song” is included from the Ashkenasi catalog and given a swampy torch song feel, with the twang of the banjo. Sutton soars vocally as sounds of plucking and high register delights fill this delicate cut, joined by the cello and hints of horns dancing in the background, the listener is transported to the banks of folklore.
More than just a CD, Billie & Dolly is like listening to a play, with each cut having its own story. I could easily see the theme set to a play, almost a story of America.