Sunny Crownover is a Boston based vocalist that grew up[ as a military daughter, although spending much of her life from high school in Austin, Texas, honing her chops in various blues groups, and since moving to Boston sang with the 2120 South Michigan Avenue, a blues band led by Harvard professor Charles Sawyer. She becomes the axis around which guitarist Duke Robillard gets to put together a project to salute some of the women song stylists of the 30s to 50s. Duke added saxophonist and clarinetist Billy Novick, bassist Jesse Williams and rhythm guitarist Paul Kolesnikow to form Sunny and Her Joy Boys, with an album Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys on Stony Plain Records.
With the exception of one track on which Duke plays conga drums, it is interesting that this swing-oriented album was made with a drummer, although the bass and rhythm guitar do provide a foundation for the engaging swinging performances. Sunny possesses an attractive voice with nice diction and phrasing. Although some of the material is more novel like the opening Strictly From Dixie, there are a number of well known standards of the era such as You’re Driving Me Crazy, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sing, Today I Sing the Blues, and Duke Ellington’s I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” The performances are enhanced by the swinging accompaniment and Novick’s traditionally oriented reed work is exemplary as are Robillard’s fills and solos. While having a very attractive voice, Sunny is not convincing as a bluesy ballad singer on Today I Sing the Blues, or I’ve Got It Bad, but her voice and delivery suits upbeat lyrics like Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.
For those looking for an engaging pop-jazz revival album of swing tunes from the classic era of American songs, this should fill the bill.
This review originally appeared in the April 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 325). I have made some minor edits to the review. Duke has produced a new album by Sunny Right Here, Right Now, on Shining Stone Records that I will be posting a review of in a day or two. This new album is in a straight blues vein. Here is a video that was made to promote Sunny and Her Joy Boys.