State of Bliss – Courtenay Day

Courtenay Day sounds a like a world weary Liz Callaway – clear and pure but slightly cracked around the edges. It’s not a great voice but she knows what to do with it. Warm, with an edge of vulnerability, it draws in the listener and makes him feel as though Day is telling her stories for him alone.

On her second album Day tackles a range of material from the last 6 decades or so with a nice mix of the familiar and less well known. She has a way of singing a lyric as though discovering it for the first time. Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen’s “Dissertation On A State Of Bliss” is fresh and tender and Johnny Mandel’s “A Time For Love” has a touching sense of discovery about it. She manages to evoke an unaffected air of innocence that is most affective on “Beyond Compare” – a paean to the seemingly perfect (new?) lover – and she finds the joy in Sondheim’s “Take Me To The World” without over-dramatizing. She sings this in a medley with “Anyone Can Whistle,” a number whose tender simplicity can sometimes drown in bathos. However, Day focuses on the suggestion of hope in ‘maybe you could show me…how to be free’ and finds genuine and affecting optimism.

The very air of openness that works on so much of the material seems to prevent her from finding the right sense of ennui for “Something Cool” – though she negotiates the tricky melody without mishap – and her delicate take on Lennon and McCartney’s “I Will” is spoiled by the interpolation of the ubiquitous “Get Here” which only shows up the clumsiness of the latter’s lyric. But elsewhere Day rarely puts a foot wrong. The voice grows in appeal with listening and she gets beneath the surface of every lyric while never losing her own innate warmth. This is a comforting, romantic recording that benefits hugely from the presence of the ever-reliable Christopher Marlowe as musical arranger.

– Mark Jennett