Over the past few years, guitarist/bandleader/chanteuse Miss Tess has made a name for herself as a connoisseur of retro sounds. Her unaffectely bright, nuanced vocals immediately set her apart from the rest of the retro crowd; she isn’t trying to ape Billie Holiday, or Loretta Lynn, or any other icon from decades past. When Miss Tess is at the top of her game, which is pretty much always, her songs sound like country, soul or blues hits from whatever era she’s gone back in time to capture. Her latest album, The Love I Have for You, with her killer band the Talkbacks – Will Graefe (also of the brilliant dub reggae band Super Hi-Fi) on lead guitar, Larry Cook on upright bass, and Matt Meyer on drums – has a characteristically diverse mix of originals and at least one cover. They’re playing the album release show at Joe’s Pub at 7 PM on Dec 11; cover is $15. As of today this album isn’t streaming yet at her Bandcamp page, but the rest of her excellent back catalog is.
The opening track, Sorry You’re Sick, is hilarious. “What do you want from the liquor store?” Miss Tess chirps as the band bounces along behind her with a vintage 60s soul vibe. After a few shots of whatever’s in Miss Tess’ brown bag, “You can be sure you won’t suffer no more.”
The album’s title track is basically Your Cheating Heart redone as a soul song with a triplet rhythm, propelled by Meyer’s artful cymbal work. Likewise, the Alabama Waltz is pretty much the one from a few states north (you know, the beautiful…), with a tasty blend of electric and acoustic guitars. Then Graefe uses a tasteful, jazzy cover of Willlie Nelson’s Night Life as a lauching pad for an expansive solo that finally catches fire at the very end.
With its pinpoint, shuffling beat, Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad sounds like a classic soul song from the Lakeside Lounge jukebox, capped off by a biting Graefe slide guitar solo. Give It Up or Let Me Go, a bluesy rockabilly number, has some deliciously dueling guitars from the lead player and the bandleader. The catchiest song here is the Hank Williams-ish country ballad Hold Back the Tears, which is packed with neat back-and-forth dynamic shifts. Not a single bad song on this album: Miss Tess does it again.