Emmy Rossum is a multi-talented performer. As an actress, she currently stars in Showtime’s Shameless, and the forthcoming film, Beautiful Creatures. Her new CD, Sentimental Journey, is her second. Its twelve songs, each an American classic, correspond at least loosely to a month of the year.
Like her 2007 album, Inside Out, Sentimental Journey was produced by Stuart Brawley. To capture an authentic early 20th century sound, it was recorded with a live band in just three days, using vintage mics and mastered to tape.
And, it works. You could actually almost mistake this album for one raided from your grandma’s collection of 78s and LPs; the production, arrangements and vocals are all very retro.
Unlike most current performers who cover American standards, Rossum delivers them not in a modern style, but rather much as they were first performed. Rossum brings graceful and nuanced voice to her personal, but still era-authentic interpretations of the songs, renewing them for a fresh listening experience.
Sentimental Journey is an apt title for this album. It’s a celebration of romance, of memory – and of the ever resonant tunes of the American songbook which are beloved and reinterpreted decade after decade. This type of music never goes out of style. Rossum dreamily performs the title track, kicking off an album full of romantic, nostalgic tracks.
“The Object of My Affection” introduces some Valentine’s romantic warmth, sung in 1920s style. It sounds as if it could have come out of an early musical. (The brief spoken-word exchange between Rossum & a male before the final verse is cute, but
maybe a little much.)
Another 1920s song, “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” is an obvious – but fun – song in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s actually a love song. It’s performed in grand style, with a big chorus, sounding as if it came from a big Broadway production or old-style Hollywood musical.
April brings “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You),” which has been recorded by everyone from Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra to Michael Bublé. A sexy, swingy number featuring jazz piano and horns, Rossum sings it with sweet, wistful longing for an absent lover.
May’s track, is a slow an romantic version of “I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time,” which Rossum says her mother sang her to sleep with as a child, and was a big hit for The Andrews Sisters back in 1941.
Next up is “Summer Wind,” a breezy remembrance of a fleeting summer romance. Rossum believably sings in in something approximating Rat Pack style, backed by a sophisticated, horn-filled band.
The upbeat “Many Tears Ago” written circa 1960, is a classic old-school country-style kiss-off song to a former lover.
Next up is a 1930s big-band song, “All I Do Is Dream Of You,” an upbeat, happy love song which Rossum sings with conviction, backed by her talented band in high style.
September brings “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” which was written in 1923. A It’s been recorded by dozens of artists, including Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, and Eric Clapton. Rossum energetically delivers this sad tune of a formerly rich and popular woman, now penniless and alone.
The next track, “Autumn Leaves (Les Feuilles Mortes)” a slow, thoughtful song about loss and memory, sung partially in the original French, brings to mind a melancholic walk through cool Paris streets as the days begin to shorten.
The mood rises again with The Bobby Darin song, “Things.” Though written in 1962, is a pop song, and still has an air of the late 1950s about it. This, too, is based upon memories, but it’s a joyful, poppy, upbeat look back at fun times spent together.
“Pretty Paper,” (first a hit for Roy Orbison, who co-wrote it with Willie Nelson), on the surface seems to be about Christmas shopping, a close listen will reveal its real subject – a moving reflection on the homeless, who are lost and ignored amidst all the holiday glitter, hustle and bustle. The song opens with a gospel choir, but soon Rossum alone sings with lush orchestration. It sounds just like somehting you might have heard during the holidays on AM radio as a kid in the 1960s.
With the calendar year over, the album ends with a bonus track, “Keep Young and Beautiful,” written in 1933. It tongue-in-cheekly advises, “Take care of all those charms / And you’ll always be in someone’s arms / Keep young and beautiful / If you want to be loved.” Rossum sings it charmingly (even if its message is debatable).
Since the songs were written over a 40-year span, this makes for a lot of different musical styles, but, happily, the choices made in selecting, producing and performing them result in an album which hangs together really well. As Sentimental JourneySentimental Journey deserves a spin on your stereo.