VOCALIST-VIOLINIST Natasha Miller is hooked on the songs of Bobby Sharp, and who can blame her? This is Miller's second recording devoted to tunes composed by Sharp, best known for penning the Ray Charles hit "Unchain My Heart," and it's full of charming treats and discoveries.
Not least among them is Sharp's welcome cameo, in which the octogenarian briefly teams up with Miller for an unabashedly sentimental performance of "As the Years Come and Go." Sharp's hazy tenor has aged well, but not as well as his songbook, which, for all its strong ties to vintage pop and jazz, appears timeless. It's hard to categorize his legacy. The selections here are as diverse as the torchy "Prisoner of the Blues," the whimsical "Doin' the Impossible," the swinging "Don't Move" and the country-loping "Stolen Love (On Highway 99)". "Don't Set Me Free" rings a vintage R&B bell, but most of the tunes are as obscure as they are worthy of unearthing.
Miller isn't interested in merely playing the role of archivist. Her interpretations are heartfelt and occasionally moving. With help from a few arrangers, she also places Sharp's words (and delightful wordplay) in flattering settings that feature a rhythm section led by pianist Josh Nelson, plus, now and then, horns and strings.
Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley.
Mike Joyce - Washington Post (Jul 21, 2006)