Strictly Romancin' reviewed by Paul de Barros in Seattle Times

Seattle Times, February 11, 2012

by Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music writer

Catherine Russell, "Strictly Romancin'" (World Village): Though popular music is structured around obsolescence — styles emerge, fall away, then revive as "retro" — some artists, thank goodness, just do what they do. Though the songs on this album are old, they are not self-consciously so. Russell sings in a marvelously full, rich alto and hangs just a hint of a blue scrim over her cheerful, straight-shooting, girl-next-door innocence. Her soulful, R&B triplets on the Lil Green classic "Romance in the Dark" will heat up any Valentine's date, and the sentiment on the cheerfully inviting "Everything's Been Done Before" will appeal to any would-be lover. Russell has a keen curatorial ear. As familiar as you may be with Mary Lou Williams and Louis Armstrong, chances are you've never heard Williams' infectious ditty "Satchel Mouth Baby." And though you may know, by way of Bobby Short, Billy Strayhorn's "I'm Checkin' Out, Goom Bye," you'll be glad to hear it again by Russell. Her haunting version of "No More," with its '50s-modern arrangement, is easily as good as Billie Holiday's. It's not a big deal, but it's worth mentioning that Russell is black, since vintage song excavation has been primarily a white obsession. But like the Carolina Chocolate Drops with the blues, Russell is a delightful addition to the party.