With its memorable melodies and seductive sound scape, Claudia Russell’s new album, All Our Luck Is Changing, elicits the classic era of ageless American music. Russell delivers a whimsical melting pot of traditional and contemporary styles, from earnest folk to sweet jug band blues, driven by her deft guitar work and a versatile, expressive voice. Russell paints her material with emotional depth, looking forward and back at life with both childlike awe and the experience of a musician with four decades of music under her belt.
Working with 3x Grammy nominee producer Peter Case, Russell and her husband Bruce Kaplan cut the majority of the record live with some of LA’s best musicians. Using just a few overdubs, Case created a balance between the immediacy of a live record and the freedom to embellish that the studio inspires.
Russell is backed up on the CD by some long-time collaborators and a few new ones. Kaplan plays mandolin and electric guitar. Percussionist Debra Dobkin has played on each of Russell’s studio recordings (as well as with Richard Thompson, Bonnie Raitt, and Shawn Colvin), and lends her feel on about half the album’s songs. Viola player Tom Talley goes all the way back to Russell’s first high school band and has recorded and performed with artists such as Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson and Willie Nelson. Keyboard player Carl Byron is an in-demand Los Angeles session player who appears on all of Russell’s recordings and has worked with Kaplan since the 1980s. Likewise, Dobro player Eric Lewis (Robin and Linda Williams) is a close member of Russell’s musical tribe, touring the Midwest with Russell and Kaplan each summer.
Claudia plays most of the acoustic guitar on the album, with a definite knack for open tunings and intricate rhythms. Producer Peter Case added harmonica, banjo and guitar, and brought in drummer Danny Frankel, bass player Paul Eckman and trumpeter Mike Fortunato.
Case adds a steady hand to the recording – mostly letting Russell be herself, while changing up a song here and there for a nuanced sound. Songs like “So You’ll Believe, “ a spare, haunting ballad in live performance, takes on a thick and dreamy pop sensibility. Russell and Case created a genre-bending version of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” that marries Russell’s folk-based sound to the vibe of 1970s Memphis soul.
Eight of the songs were written by Russell, with an occasional assist from Kaplan. Rounding out the record is the classic Lone Justice ballad “You Are The Light,” “These Shoes” (a song Russell found on an 1980s Everly Brothers record), and the above-referenced Anne Peebles classic.
Russell delivers the CD’s eleven songs with confidence, easily shifting the mood from mellow nostalgia to sassy soul, never losing her essential distinctive tone. Indeed, one of Russell’s remarkable vocal talents is her ability to embrace a wide range of styles and seamlessly weave them into a unique sound that is held together by her natural delivery. Everyone who hears her seems to agree – Russell can really sing!
Claudia and Bruce have honed their distinctive sound over a decade of touring festivals, clubs, concert series and house concerts, often as a duo and sometimes with their ever-changing band, The Folk Unlimited Orchestra. On stage they draw audiences in with spontaneous clever banter and an entertaining “Who me?” attitude. In their various configurations, Russell and Kaplan have graced the stages of the Kerrville Folk Festival, The Great American Music Hall, Club Passim and key venues such as McCabe’s and Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. The duo call the San Francisco Bay Area home and are one of the cornerstones of its thriving roots music scene.
All Our Luck Is Changing is Claudia’s fourth CD. Her first, Song Food, earned her Best New Artist honors from Boston folk music powerhouse WUMB. Her two other previous albums have also been championed by public radio and Claudia has been featured in Sing Out!, The Boston Globe, and the SF Chronicle. NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Claudia in connection with her father Val Rosing’s (aka Gilbert Russell) 100th birthday and the release of Try A Little Tenderness, a CD of 25 of his most popular recordings. Rosing recorded more than a 100 sides in the 1930s and was the first singer ever to record “Try A Little Tenderness.” He’s best remembered as the vocalist on the million-selling original BBC recording of “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” The song remains a children’s favorite even today.
Though Claudia and Bruce might not carry the trappings of the usual music industry formula for overnight success, these self-described ‘late bloomers’ have refined their sound into an eclectic, full-bodied tapestry of unplugged Americana. Giving themselves the time and space to come into their own as people and musicians has allowed for the creation of their definitive album. The duo have dealt themselves a winning hand. Indeed, all you have to do is listen and you too will believe their musical assertion: All Our Luck Is Changing!
released June 30, 2013
Produced by Peter Case
Claudia Russell - Guitar and vocals
Carl Byron - Piano, accordion and B-3 organ
Bruce Riffmonster Kaplan - Mandolin and electric guitar
Danny Frankel and Debra Dobkin - Drums and percussion:
Paul Eckman - Bass
Eric Lewis - Dobro
Tom Tally - viola and violin
Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan have been touring the USA and beyond since 2000, playing a particularly eclectic,
enlightening and entertaining brand of folk music for audiences big and small. Claudia is a veteran of BMG recording artist Maggie's Farm as well as Folkways/Smithsonian artists the Life Is Grand Band. Bruce has played with with pop bands Annyland, the Tearjerkers and the Toasters....more