Vocalist Lee has been a popular local presence since moving to town from Chicago in 2001. But her Threadhead debut isn’t merely a love letter to New Orleans—it’s a love letter to just about everybody, a warm hug of a record that opens with a pledge of devotion and closes with a gentle lullaby.
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The opening “I Will Love You,” one of three originals here, introduces the giddy, infatuated mood that Lee maintains for much of the disc. It also gives space to her two main soloists: trumpeter Dave Boswell and guitarist Matt Johnson, who provide the kind of kick you get when younger guys fall in love with older music (Johnson’s guitar is the only electric instrument anywhere on the disc). And Lee sounds as if she slinked in from another era—if a vintage cocktail dress could sing, it would sound like this.
The tunes are mostly jazz standards and she doesn’t try to redefine them, but does add a personal touch. “When You’re Smiling” is a tough song to pull off in this cynical era, but she makes it work, partly due to the playful pout she puts into her voice when the “Stop your crying” line rolls around. And that’s not even the most upbeat song here: “Come and Get Your Happiness” adds violinist Matt Rhody, who matches the bubbly joy in Lee’s vocal. It will more than likely go down as the best Shirley Temple cover to hit disc this year.
Even the Tom Waits number, “A Little Trip to Heaven,” fits the wide-eyed mood of the record, as do Lee’s other two originals, but both songs stretch a bit from the traditional jazz base. “My Love Untitled” is a samba that allows a more sensual tone to creep in, and the title track has a more modern pop feel—the groove actually suggests a different “Love Street,” namely the Doors’. While she does fine as a standard interpreter, these tunes suggest that Lee’s own writing may wind up her strong card.