Rachael Price and Vilray Blair Bolles have a long history that only recently began producing music. Price (of Lake Street Dive) and Vilray (now a New York-based singer-songwriter-guitar player) met two decades ago as students at the New England Conservatory of Music and traveled in concentric musical circles before beginning to perform together in 2015. In 2019, the pair released their first album, Rachael & Vilray, a collection of jazzy tunes (mostly written by Vilray) that showcased the subtleties in Price’s voice. For album number two, the duo decided to go bigger – more horns, bigger vocals and even sharper songwriting. I Love a Love Song pairs Rachael’s soulful voice and Vilray’s deft guitar work with songs that only feel like they’ve been around for decades.
Despite having one of the best voices in pop music in the studio, I Love a Love Song! begins with the Vilray-voiced “Any Little Time,” and it turns out to be an apt scene-setter. Vilray’s mild, naturalistic style allows the wit and heartbreak – “Any little time/Could be the bottom of the 9th/Or in the highest tent in Kathmandu/If you don’t love me/Then every little time I’ll cry” – in his lyrics to shine in equal measure. While jaunty horns keep the mood from sinking too low, you really do feel for the guy who’s on the verge of tears at any moment.
One song, though, is as long as we can stand to keep Ms. Price waiting. “Even in the Evenin’” sports more wordplay from Vilaray’s pen, but it’s Rachael’s torchy longing for her hard-working (if it IS work that’s keeping him absent) man that captures the moment. Between smoky horn solos, Price goes from recalling more romantic times – “Those hours once were mine/From five to nine” – to plotting revenge – “Ambition is nice/But you pay a price/And wrath is a sin/But I’ll get even/In the evenin’.” Be warned, suitors – her patience has limits.
Revenge, with a healthy dose of self-care, is also found in “Just Me This Year.” Released in time for the just-passed holidays, this buoyant semi-holiday romp emphasizes spoiling yourself when no one else will – “He told me diamonds are a luxury/So I’ll take three” – while throwing shade at that recent ex – “I’m keeping plenty warm without him…There’s so much left to burn!” But on a record exclamatorily titled in favor of love, romance wins the day. “Just Two” is a duet composed of two-syllable lines – “Of all/the lips/I know/I’ve kissed/I can/Recall/Just two” – and topped off by a sultry Dan Barrett trombone solo. And the album wraps the same way Rachael & Vilray close many of their shows – a cover of Mack Gordon and Harry Revel’s “Goodnight My Love.” Accompanied only by Larry Goldings’ piano, the duo sings each other to sleep as it sends the listener out in hope of finding something as timeless and enduring as the music that inspired this record.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Hate is the Basis (of Love)” – a great stand-up bass line backs Vilray’s clever redefinition of love – shared dislikes. The pair deftly trades lines as if they’d been doing this for decades, until Goldings nearly steals the show with a gin-spiked piano solo. It encapsulates the tone of the entire album – clever, playful and, in its best moments, downright sexy.
I Love a Love Song! was produced, recorded and mixed by Dan Knobler and mastered by Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone. All original songs written by Vilray. Additional musicians include David Piltch (bass), Joe La Barbera (drums), Larry Goldings (piano, celeste, organ), Jacob Zimmerman (alto saxophone, clarinet, arrangements), Nate Ketner (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Jim Ziegler (trumpet) and Dan Barrett (trombone).
Go here to order I Love a Love Song! (out January 13): https://www.nonesuch.com/albums/i-love-a-love-song
Go to Rachael & Vilray’s website for tour dates: https://rachaelandvilray.com/