Elizabeth McQueen, Johnny Dango, and Joel Laviolette & Rattletree
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 7, 2014
After eight years riding shotgun with Asleep at the Wheel, Elizabeth McQueen makes a U-turn. Reworking songs from her solo jazz LP, 2010's The Laziest Girl in Town, the local honky-tonker teams up with St. Louis quintet Brothers Lazaroff to add atmospheric grooves across six tracks on The Laziest Remix. Her vocals still slink and pop on the Cole Porter title track and "You're to Blame," but braced with Lazaroff's eclectic riffs and up-tempo back-beats, "Gone Solid Gone" cuts experimental funk and hip-hop, and "Just Let Go" soars against a bed of noise. On her own once again, McQueen proves ever entrancing and always a surprise. Johnny Dango's (Sort of) Nice Dreams likewise marks a solo move, this one from local rock outfit the Memphis Strange into the calmer roots of his follow-up to 2007 LP Let's Go Pioneering! Dango cuts tender with "All My Dreams" and "The Hardest Part," while "No One Like Me" and "Together or Alone" lay sad and dark like nights in the back of the bar. Arrangements remain refined and ethereal, allowing Dango's unexpectedly soft tenor to quiver evocatively even as warped instrumental closer "All My 'Robot' Dreams" feels out of step. Joel Laviolette & Rattletree continue their infectious marimba evangelization on Joy, five tracks slicing the traditional African instrument with electronic impulses. The opening title track races with marimba runs to set the pace, but unique covers of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and Joanna Newsom's "En Gallop" best capture the energy and playfulness of the local quintet, the latter crooned with an almost Eighties darkwave vibe. Original "Something in Dande," written with Zimbabwean virtuoso Newton Gwara, calms against aggressive beats on closer "Blood Red," capping a diverse sampling of Rattletree's inventive reach.