Helen Merrill | Lilac Wine
Universal Music SA, France 9 Tracks 45 minutes

How many ways can you say it: "I'm an old woman and I still feel like singing love songs." Helen Merrill was huge in the 50’s. Half a century later, her voice is now husky, as in 'husk', as in wind through faded stalks of corn still standing in the chill fields of grey November. The beauty of her season's song is poignant because, as the Japanese would say, a touch of decay pierces to the bone.

Her love can be like the wind, "and the wind is wild"; she can be sitting alone at a bar ordering a scotch and soda for a lover the waiter can't see and asking they be left alone for a while; she can be on an island with a new lover saying to him "teach me how to please you". The most poignant song of all is "One More Walk around the Garden." She says, "Leaves may be falling/But April is calling" once more before the gate to the garden closes forever.

Backed by a thirty-two-piece orchestra, with swirling strings and fluttering flutes, and a jazz quartet, this is a smooth package with a gritty edge to it.

Stanley Fefferman for The Live Music Report

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