First Impressions: I Love a Love Song! by Rachael & Vilray

Friday night, we streamed the first two episodes of the new Fox series Alert: Missing Persons Unit on Hulu. A police procedural set in Philadelphia seemed like no-brainer entertainment to me, but instead of a straightforward cop drama, which is what I assumed it would be, the show is fantastical nonsense accented by far-fetched cases and storylines. The whole thing comes off as manipulative fodder. Worse than that, however, and the reason for this odd opening to this album review: The show itself is shot in and around Montreal so, outside of file-footage shots of the Billy Penn statue atop City Hall, every outdoor scene looks positively generic—and while Philadelphia is many things, generic ain’t one of them. You can’t fake Philly.

You also can’t fake the sumptuous jazz and pop that ruled the staticky AM radio band in the America of the 1930s and ‘40s. You need to feel it in your bones or the result will come across as kitschy or vacuous—or both. To that end, one listen to I Love a Love Song!—the second collaboration between Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price and guitarist-singer Vilray Blair Bolles—provides ample proof that, indeed, it’s the real deal. Vilray echoes an array of male singers of that era, while Price reminds me of no less than Peggy Lee.

For those late to the game: The pair met and became friends in 2003 while attending the New England Conservatory in Boston. In fact, Vilray played in a few bands with several of Price’s future Lake Street Dive bandmates but, the music biz being what it is, he eventually drifted away from the scene. A broken finger in 2015 made him realize what he was missing, however, and when Price attended one of his first solo shows, a duo was born. Theirs is a throwback sound, to be sure, yet also part and parcel of certain strains within modern jazz that, like Samara Joy or Melody Gardot circa My One and Only Thrill, borrow from the old to make something new. It’s fanciful and fun.

The songs are all love-themed, obviously, though not all are overtly romantic. Some yearn, others burn, and a few dig into the underlying reasons the heart pitter-patters as it does. One can easily imagine Benny Goodman and His Orchestra performing them in 1942 (with Peggy Lee on vocals and Dave Barbour on guitar, of course). Yet all but one were written by Vilray; the exception is “Goodnight My Love” by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon, which was first heard in the 1936 Shirley Temple movie Stowaway; in the years that followed, it was covered by Goodman and His Orchestra, Alice Faye, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

The only things absent from the set are a mono mix and radio static. And while I actually think mono has its place in today’s world of spatial audio, neither it nor the static are missed. I Love a Love Song! positively shimmers and glimmers, and radiates joy. Give it a spin.

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