Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
“I like old songs… the older, the better,” Catherine Russell informed the full-to-the-back First Unitarian Society Whisperdome in Schenectady, her voice deep and firm. Then she asked us, “What was 60 years ago?” When someone in the crowd came up with 1953, she immediately said, “That’s too soon!” Later in the evening, she told us as an aside, “Vinyl! That’s even better!”
None of this should have been a surprise to us, considering Russell started her first set with Ethel Waters’ “Shake That Thing” and followed her chronological statement with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Ev’ntide.” Russell’s stage attire was as Old School as it gets: Hair done up tight and to a fare-thee-well, black spangly top, black skirt, black hose, black high heels – a far cry from the cornrows and shoulder ‘tats displayed on the CD booklet for her last disc Strictly Romancin’, or the Occupy Wall Street headband she wore for her 2010 release Inside This Heart of Mine. If the trend continues, she’ll be in all-urban cammo for her upcoming disc Bringin’ It Back. The title comes from a Wynonie Harris tune she did in the second set, which was every bit as fun as the first. The song did come from the ’50s, but Russell wasn’t holding that against it.