The Way We Love
ABOUT THE ALBUM
The ever-evolving--and expanding--Shelly Rudolph story continues onward and upward with the release of her latest album, the ambitious and atmospheric The Way We Love. Soul-jazz-pop chanteuse Rudolph has long been a favored voice around her hometown of Portland, Oregon, and musical travels have taken her to New York, Los Angeles, the West Indies, Japan, Korea and beyond. She has been dubbed a “robust and captivating vocalist” by Jazz Times and the LA Weekly praised her ability to use her “honey-glazed throat to send chills up and down your spine.”
Now, from the original music/poetess corner of her creative life, Rudolph follows up on her more “world soul”-oriented album Water in My Hand with The Way We Love, a unique and lyrical new song set featuring legendary, ECM Records-connected cellist David Darling. Darling’s layered cello textures blend with a subtle palette of piano-bass-guitar and cameos from soprano saxist Devin Phillips. Among the highlights on The Way We Love are an inventively re-harmonized version of “Stand By Me,” a sweetly soulful duet with Redray Frazier on “Slow Life,” and gospel-tinged opening and closing tracks, “Close Enough” and “Calling Me Home.” Long a poet as well as a songstress, the album showcases her poetic and sensual expressivity on “The Way with Love,” spoken against a sumptuous bed of Darling’s cello tones.
With this latest album, Shelly Rudolph is poised to rise in the ranks of voices of the must-hear caliber, on a global scale.
"It may come as a surprise to some Oregon listeners that Shelly Rudolph’s last album came out over 15 years ago. On that release, 2005’s Water in my Hand, the Portland singer and songwriter laid her powerful but sensitive vocals over a tight rhythm section complete with electric guitar and crisp drums. So if you haven’t been paying attention to Rudolph’s artistic evolution in the years since, her new record, The Way We Love (OA2 Records), might come as a bit of a shock. In lieu of a traditional rhythm section, Rudolph has recruited cellist David Darling, who offers a variety of textures, some light and some dense. Rounding out the sound is a parade of well-known pianists—including Darrell Grant, David Goldblatt, David K. Mathews and Rudolph’s frequent collaborator Tom Grant—as well as a few other acclaimed Portland guests. The result lends a startling, hushed intimacy to this collection of beautifully arranged jazz-pop ballads mostly composed by Rudolph herself.
Things start off somewhat conventionally with some groovy interplay between bassist Dave Captein and guitarist Chance Hayden on the intro to “Close Enough.” But halfway through the smoky 6/8 number, Darling’s cello enters—or rather, his cellos, overdubbed several times to paint otherworldly colors behind Mathews’s bluesy piano and Rudolph’s buoyant delivery of the melody. Darling’s work is never heavy enough to become distracting, and it makes for a refreshing addition to the classic soul sound of the piece.
Elsewhere on the album, the cello serves to heighten some of the album’s more experimental aspects. The title track, for instance, is a full-on spoken-word piece, with Rudolph comparing humanity to pastries over a thick choir of multi-tracked cello. And on a dreamy rendition of the Ben E. King standard “Stand By Me,” rendered ethereal by Hayden’s sweeping guitar chords, Darling becomes a one-person percussion section, lending crunchy emphasis to the song’s signature rhythmic hits.
When the album’s other guests appear, they somehow both steal the show and fit seamlessly into the album’s meditative mood. Vocalist Redray Frazier is the most prominent of these collaborators, his silky voice sharing the duet spotlight with Rudolph on a gentle cover of Chris Pierce’s “The Slow Life.” Devin Phillips’s soprano sax is also a welcome presence; on the album’s closer, “Calling Me Home,” he weaves percussive statements over Darrell Grant’s gospel piano, and he takes a swooning turn on the simmering ballad “Faith.” The latter is one of several Norah Jones-esque moments on the album, though Rudolph traverses deftly from Jones’s softly soulful style into a more forceful mode at the song’s climax.
Chance Hayden only appears on four tracks, but he co-produced the album with Rudolph (and also happens to be her husband), and the variety of tones he adds throughout the album add just the right amount of atmosphere and arrangement to the compositions. Ultimately, though, this is Rudolph’s project, and it is the perfect sonic showcase not only for her versatile singing voice but also for her songs, a varied collection united by a fresh and powerful romanticism." - Tree Palmedo, Jazz Society of Oregon
"Imagine a smoky, sonic concoction with equal parts sugar and whiskey, and you've got something close to Shelly Rudolph's voice. While there's some world-weariness behind it, her rich contralto brings out the sweetness even when things get sad. She glides more than capers, often packing a lot of nuance into one drawn-out note. The Way We Love makes a setting to perfectly play to her strengths, full of dreamy balladry and drawing on a deep well of soul.
The backing is on the sparse side—largely sunny piano with guitar, sax or strings sprinkled around as called for—which puts the songs' simple beauty front and center. While things stay largely in that one mode (an overly cutesy spoken title track aside), the singing provides all the variety and heart this recording needs. "The Slow Life" makes one particular highlight with Redray Frazier stepping up to duet, while a soothing "Stand by Me" and suddenly exuberant gospel closer provide other charming surprises. Whatever the material, Rudolph has enough bluesy grit and diva class to carry the day." - All About Jazz
"A soulful vocalist that prefers not to be contained, (Shelly Rudolph) gives you a taste of what Carole King would sound like if she could kick it out with some real soul---but she doesn’t stop to limit herself there. A set that took it’s sweet time to arrive, it’s just right for that in between time when you have shrugged the day off but aren’t quite ready for some after hours adventures yet. With all the pros on board playing like they aren’t watching the clock, it’s all got the right feel and flow to make itself easily at home on your system of choice. Solidly sweet." - Midwest Record
"Time for rest. And wise listening to music. Time for Shelly Rudolph. Decelerated, tender and brimming with emotion. Shelly herself with a clear voice - sometimes firmly stowed, sometimes suspended - an all-star ensemble (cellist David Darling, plus Tom Grant, Darrell Grant, David Goldblatt or David K. Mathews on the grand piano, Dave Captein on Bass and saxophonist Devin Phillips), led by guitarist Chance Hayden, who, as a husband, contributed to the production with particular care, co-wrote a few songs and, of course, contributed very fine, jazzy sequences.
No drums far and wide, a fact that makes the tempo in the song world of Mrs. Rudolph finally meaningless and thus generously provides space and time for the instrumental swabs of the musicians involved. Jazz? Sure, too, but not with priority. Rather a special singer / songwriter oasis, the source of which is composed of pop, gospel and jazz flavors. Listening is key! Interested? Then please click here: shellyrudolph.com" - Sonic Soul