Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band
By Christopher Loudon
With her singularly enticing sound, equal parts Maria Muldaur mewl and breezy Blossom Dearie trill, few contemporary vocalists are as well suited to dustily vintage material as jazz-blues stylist Roberta Donnay. She affectively proved so three years ago when, teamed with her Prohibition Mob Band, she surveyed standards from the 1920s and â30s on the charming A Little Sugar. Now sheâs back for more.
Again Donnay pulls triple-duty as leader, arranger and producer (the last two credits shared with bassist Sam Bevan). Again sheâs accompanied by the remarkably versatile PMB, as impressive at shaping a Louis Prima-worthy swinger as a dreamy ballad. Again Donnay winningly blends the familiar with the obscure, travelling from the sly sass of âWhy Donât You Do Right?â and tenderness of Charlie Chaplinâs âSmileâ to the sophisticated verve of Harry Revel and Mack Gordonâs âWake Up and Liveâ and zippy bounce of the Boswell Sistersâ â(Weâve Got to) Put the Sun Back in the Sky.â The albumâs apex is Elizabeth Cottenâs Depression-era anthem âShake Sugaree.â
Donnay closed A Little Sugar with a tune of her own, ably capturing the throwback zeitgeist with her âEmpty Bed Blues.â This time she ventures further, co-writing four songs that fully fit the erstwhile ambiance: the fizzy, call-and-response title track; the rambling, Big Easy-inspired âThrow Your Heart (Over the Fence)â; the frolicsome âHappy Feetâ; and the slithery, playful âHorizontal Mambo.â
JAZZ TIMES-Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob Band -Bathtub Gin -Motema