Minneapolis Tribune, 11/16/01

Peg Carrothers, ''Blue Skies'' (Bridge Boy)

From the opening notes of a stunning and personal arrangement of ''Young and Foolish,'' it's clear that this is no formulaic release targeted at retro-conscious FM radio. Carrothers might do some old familiar tunes (''Poor Butterfly,'' ''In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning''), but she has an agenda, making each tune fresh and revelatory -- not comfy. Her voice is clear and warm, flowing and trumpet-like, light but never wispy. She's no belter, yet there's just enough power in Carrothers' supple delivery to keep pace with a strong, adventurous Twin Cities band: Chris Bates (bass); Jay Epstein (drums), and her internationally renowned husband, Bill Carrothers (piano). Jazz is supposed to come with surprises, and cheerful oddities abound on ''Blue Skies.'' ''It's a Sin to Tell a Lie'' is treated as a music hall-style 1920s lark, with Bill Carrothers making his own singing debut, sounding like a Rudy Vallee crony, a megaphone man. At the opposite end of the mood spectrum is ''Geranium,'' on which the singer puts music to a poem by the late Jane Kenyon, as guest Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan beautifully bows accompaniment. ''Geranium'' is more like European art music than post-bop. It all adds up to one terrific debut.

- Tom Surowicz -


All Music Guide

To say that Peg Carrothers' Blue Skies takes an atypical approach for a maiden album is an understatement. Most of the items on the play list — standards, traditional material, and originals — are not done in the "regular" way, especially the standards and the traditional works. "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" sounds like a spoof with barroom piano, rat-a-tat-tat drumming, and pennywhistle with Peg Carrothers singing country falsetto much like Dorothy Shay, of the Park Avenue Hillbillies, did years ago. Then there's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" sung in a slow, halting manner to the dirge drone of the pizzicato cello of Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan (and snoring?). Cellos seem to be de rigeur with many contemporary singers. On "Shenandoah," Carrothers moves toward haunting wordless vocalizing with an echo effect accompanied by the sonata-like pianism of Bill Carrothers, the latter dominating the track. "Young and Foolish" has the singer doing the melody line, but with Jay Epstein's drums going in a different direction and, to a lesser extent, so does Carrothers' piano. The result is an uncanny but angelic version of this tune with a definite avant-garde bent. In great anticipation was the way the group was going to handle that old Tin Pan Alley tune "Back in Your Own Backyard." This one is done relatively straight-ahead and features some good bass by Chris Bates. The bottom line is that most of what Carrothers and crew do works. While off the beaten track, it's not different just for the sake of being different. Their versatile frolicking fits well with the objectives and lyrics of the tunes, offering an innovative, fresh, and highly listenable view of standard material. Have fun with this one. Vive le differénce. — Dave Nathan