In “Scrabble,” the penultimate track on Lorraine Feather’s latest, she dreams of whipping her opponent’s “Mensa fanny.” The sentiment is surely flippant, for no one as wickedly skilled as Feather at crafting cunning lyrics could possibility be poor at word games. As on her previous release, 2008’s terrific Language, Feather fills the album with guest artists who double as her tunesmiths. “Scrabble,” for instance, is based on Dick Hyman’s “Barrel of Keys.” Hyman not only arranged the new piece and provides piano accompaniment, but also challenged Feather to incorporate the name Dushka (a Hyman family friend) into the lyric. She does so, with Cole Porter panache.
When Béla Fleck approved the Dalí-esque lyrics fitted to his “Circus of Regrets” (aptly re-titled “Peculiar Universe”), he also agreed to play on the track. Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante, guitarist Eddie Arkin and pianist Shelly Berg, all of whom contributed to Language, each co-pilot multiple tracks. Arkin’s bouncy “A Lot to Remember,” a poignantly witty treatise on the voyage from birth to 60, is counterbalanced by the wistful “How Did We End Up Here?” Berg joins Feather for the swinging semi-regret of “I Forgot to Have Children” and sage “Things I Learned in High School.” But Ferrante is assigned the most fun, shaping the increasing urgency of “Two Desperate Women in Their Late 30s” and the slow-whirling madness of the macabre “The Girl With the Lazy Eye” which, with typical Feather flair, takes a last-minute U-turn, ending with a wonderful affirmation.