July 2018 Album of the Month: Eleanor Dubinsky

Soft Spot of My Heart

Chances are that when an artist is declared a rising star in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English language publications, she’s probably pretty good. If you retain any doubt, let me proclaim that Eleanor Dubinsky is very, very good. She’s also working on her Czech, so maybe by the time you read this she will have added another feather to her crowded accolade cap.

Ms Dubinsky hails from St. Louis. We know she’s good with languages, but she’s even better as musician. She has studied cello and guitar and has tremendous voice control over a repertoire that’s a jazz/folk mash—with perhaps more jazz shining through on Soft Spot of My Heart, her third release. But she’s really eclectic. How many performers do you know who have been seen at both Lincoln Center and on Animal Kingdom?

Among the many things that is obvious from the start is that Dubinsky is more than just a lovely a voice; she knows how to sing. Her timing is impeccable and she hits all those small spaces in the way that marks gifted jazz chanteuses. She is not, however, grounded in classical jazz. Like many of today’s artists, hers is a mashable musical planet.

This album is folk music as blended with the rhythms of Brazilian and Latino jazz. It was recorded in Portugal and in New York, and it's easy to detect her global influences. After all, "El sabor de la vida" is in Spanish, and "Cuando voya me trabajo” at once shows off her chops in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. In the latter, she sways to bright piano and hollow percussion beats with such ease that you’ll  understand why she wins raves everywhere she appears.

“Turn It Around” is a catchy song with bright splashes of brass, soulful background singers, and stunning phrasing. “Soft Spot of My Heart” is so fragile and beautiful that it could be a spotlight slow dance for future weddings. It’s also the most folk-like song on the album. The album version of “Wind Will Not Knock It Down” is jazzier—mainly just Dubinsky, piano, and beats. Listen to how she allows the song to breathe. She paces her vocals and when she soars, it’s to allow the drama of the song to shine through, not because she’s trying to impress us with pyrotechnics.

I also quite admired “Free Again,” an I-love-you-but-I-must-let-you-go song with late-night coloring in her voice, piano heavy on the dark keys, and small touches of electric guitar. If you need some uplift in these our troubled times, try “You are Special, You are Beautiful.” It was written to empower all those folks the Trumpinistas like to decry— a song that urges all to standup and be valued. Dubinsky's arrangement is equal parts soulful, blue, and bright.

Eleanor Dubinsky has enormous talent, a global worldview, a positive values system, and an amazing voice. I’d say that’s pretty much the complete package. If you don’t know her music, listen and love. Clear a soft spot in your heart to store the joy she will bring.

Rob Weir

No comments: