Barbara brings so much deeply-felt music to a record date that it’s a wonder it can all be captured on a little silver disc. But it can. She has a beautiful voice, an understated delivery, and a fine dramatic sense, which enables her to bring more out of a song than the lyrics and notes would suggest. When the material requires it, she can be warmly affectionate, coy, witty, low-down, heartbreakingly wistful, and a thousand shadings in between. Unlike some singers who attempt to go boldly back into the past, Barbara doesn’t approach her songs at an ironic distance. Rather, she has worked hard to become one with her material. Every song she chooses has an emotional connection to her life, and each one becomes a finely-crafted playlet.
Barbara’s romantic hopefulness is balanced by a clear-eyed view of modern life, so IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW is a statement of belief to her. She can also enact deep sadness without overacting. When she begins, the room becomes quiet, as audiences feel the deep yearning she creates. To me, her understanding of musical pathos is as deep as Connee Boswell’s — and I do not write those words casually.
For these sessions, Barbara chose four multi-talented musicians who are long-time friends, and their pleasure comes through. Their collective associations include work with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, with Woody Allen, Eddy Davis, Kevin Dorn, the EarRegulars, Meredith Axelrod, and the ferry to Alcatraz. The result is both polished and informal, as if we are eavesdropping on the musicians having a good time in someone’s living room — Sister Barbara has brought home a new song from the music store and gathered Brothers Pete, Andy, Conal, and Craig around to try it out. There might be cookies later. Or perhaps some home brew.