Steve Dooks,
Cocktails, Heartaches, & Cigars
(independent, 2007)

The title of this CD says it all. A martini and cigar would be a good partner to these 10 songs, all written by Steve Dooks except for two by Dave Frishberg and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" by Lerner & Loewe.

Some of them are swinging, with brass and saxes, while others have a wistful Dooks and his piano backed only by bass and drums (Dooks also plays some rhythm guitar). "The Smile on Your Face" has a Latin rhythm, while the title track is neo-swing a la "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy." "It's Called the Blues" isn't blues, but an old-fashioned lament with the lyrics punctuated by a trombone.

Dooks has a subtle sense of humor in his writing. "When I ask you if you love me, you always say 'in your dreams'" is a line from his wistful "In My Dreams." Frishberg, a musical humorist who should be better known, is represented by "Let's Eat Out" and "My Attorney Bernie."

Dooks is more competent that fantastic on his vocals and keyboard work, but that makes him more accessible. He knows just how much to play in front of his excellent backup musicians. His style is based in a retro tradition, but it is brought up to date with new lyrics and excellent production. There may be heartaches in the words, but the music is fun to hear.

review by
Dave Howell

24 January 2009

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