Alex Pangman
Justin Time Records

In the liner notes, Canadian chanteuse Alex Pangman concludes her commentary by saying, “What a joy to sing with these guys. What a joy to sing with these lungs.” The guys she’s referring to are her Alleycats, a top-drawer octet that has long been integral to her retro-cool sound. The lungs are a lot newer than the Alleycats, the result of double-transplant surgery three years ago. Pangman has since returned to full throttle, and the ensuing album is indeed reason for joy.

As salutes to Depression-era swing go, it’s hard to imagine a more authentic, or more delightful, evocation. The album’s title refers both to Pangman’s age and to the year when all but one of the 11 songs originally gained popularity. With a voice that is equal parts Lee Wiley and Helen Kane, Pangman fits this material as snugly and smartly as a Chanel cloche.

Befitting her renewed health and vitality, the mood is generally sunny, with “I Found a New Baby,” “Happy As the Day Is Long,” “Shine,” the Bing Crosby chestnut “Thanks” and two Fats Waller gems—“Ain’t Cha’ Glad” and “Honeysuckle Rose”—strung together like sepia-tinged soap bubbles. Another Crosby hit, the usually torpid “I Surrender Dear,” is effectively reworked as a sinful duet with gravel-voiced Ron Sexsmith. Pangman adds one original tune, “As Lovely Lovers Do,” a bittersweet tale of romantic rebound so skillfully crafted that it seems freshly plucked from the Connee Boswell songbook.

Originally published in October 2011

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