The pairing of Lou Reed and Dinah Washington covers may seem like an odd selection for an EP to some (including myself), but in the hands of Shilpa Ray it makes all the sense in the world. The singer turns both into timeless jazz standards with a brassy voice perfect for the Broadway stage. Both are a far cry from the sounds on Ray’s debut album, It’s All Self Fellatio. Whether these tracks offer any insight into the full-length coming in May, I have no idea. One thing is certain, the musicianship will be top notch.
You may know Ray from other projects. It took me a while to place where I remembered that name, and then it hit me: Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers. I’d seen the band’s name in a magazine at some point and it stuck with me (as great names tend to do). I’d never listened to any of the music, though, and finding out one of Ray’s projects was singing backup for Nick Cave didn’t make me too excited. Glad I decided to follow through, because this is one of those voices you never forget. Like, if this EP came out ten years ago, and some radio station played the cover of “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes,” everyone would have bought the album at Starbucks and Norah Jones would be strung out in a gutter somewhere.
I’ve never been a huge Lou Reed fan, but I can’t deny Transformer is a great record. The songs are so iconic, and the sound so specific to Lou, that covering any track seems like a terribly undesirable task. What Ray does with “Make Up” is impressive on a lot of levels. Not only remaining true to the spirit of the tune, but also giving it a different, dreamy vibe is something not many could accomplish.
Shilpa Ray will be heading down to South by Southwest along with every other band in the world in a couple weeks. Before that a few live dates are on the books, including a show in Chicago on March 4th at Burlington Bar (info here). You can download a copy of Make Up on the Northern Spy Records bandcamp page.