Album Review: Katharine Ruestow – Self-titled

You might be familiar with Katharine Ruestow as one of the Diplomettes–the female vocal duo that fronts the Iowa City Soul and R&B group The Diplomats of Solid Sound–or as part of Iowa City band New Beat Society, which gigged around town in 2005 and 2006 and released one EP, Bare Essentials.

Ruestow’s self-titled solo release has most in common with New Beat Society’s jazz, funk and worldbeat style. The Diplomats certainly showcase her vocal abilities, but she takes the opportunity here to step out into the spotlight, where we really get to experience her substantial jazz vocal chops. Ruestow’s vocal style is influenced by jazzy trumpet in tone and inflection, frequently with a delicious, lazy Billie Holiday-esque delivery.

The tasteful economy of the instrumental backing makes Ruestow’s voice the centerpiece; there are no extended solos and heroics. Euforquestra’s Matt Grundstad provides most of the instrumental backing on the record.

Grundstad is the percussionist for Euforquestra and, here, his mid-tempo rhythm ingredients–think samba, salsa and Caribbean flavors–play a central role supporting Ruestow’s vocals, making the record a mellow, breezy affair.

The lyrics cover familiar ground of love lost, regret and hope with Ruestow playing the underdog and heroine in her one-woman show. The listener has no choice but to be drawn in to her velvet vocal recounting of her tale, again and again.

Katharine Ruestow will be released mid-November and will be available digitally on iTunes and Amazon and on CD from CDBaby. She and Matt will be celebrating the release locally with a show at The Iowa City Yacht Club on Friday, November 26.