"I dug right down to the bottom of my soul"
Ruthie Henshall’s 2013 album I’ve Loved These Days was one of my favourite things that I listened to last year, her appearance in Follies in Concert marking the first time I’d actually seen her onstage. So it’s taken me an unforgivably long time to get around to another of her albums, the straight-forwardly named The Ruthie Henshall Album, dating from 1996.
And what a fascinating collection it is. Starting off with a punchy powerhouse of a 1-2 in ‘Everything's Coming Up Roses’ and ‘Maybe This Time’, both belted to within an inch of their life, Henshall then takes a breath and relaxes into gorgeously restrained versions of ‘Summertime’ and ‘Willow Weep For Me’, showing off a much more lyrical side to her vocal talent, which is the one which prevails across the album as a whole.
Whether the tender emotion of Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Where Or When’ or a tremulous ‘As Long As He Needs Me’, the daffy comedy of Fanny Brice’s ‘Second Hand Rose’ or A Chorus Line’s ‘Nothing’, or exerting consummate control over jazz-inflected orchestral interpretations of standards like ‘The Man That Got Away’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, it’s a real pleasure to listen to the contours of Henshall’s voice luxuriate so gorgeously over such classics.
At 16 tracks, the album is perhaps a little long – I remain unconvinced that the world really needs another version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ or ‘Don't Rain on My Parade’, no matter how well sung – but complaining about having too much of as good a thing as Ruthie Henshall is the real definition of churlish. Well worth tracking down.