Ruth Carlin 3In her recent, engaging shows at The Duplex to celebrate her new CD, Moon Song, Ruth Carlin proved herself with a lot of class in a personalized set of well-chosen songs. Often exhibiting a warm vibrato and succinct phrasing. Ms. Carlin offered a show filled with good song selections that perfectly suited her understated interpretive style to a tee.

 Deftly directed by Scott Barnes with Paul Greenwood as musical director, the low-key hour worked on many levels. This was mainly due to the fact that she is comfortable, relaxed and knows who she is which includes her vocal strengths. She also never tried to emulate some other persona as is sometimes common among cabaret performers. At her best on ditties like the 1970 My Most Important Moments  (Cryer-Ford) from The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, about images and nostalgia and the bucolic In A Restaurant By the Sea by John Bucchino, lit up the small stage like a flickering candle that was endearingly sweet creating one of the hours most memorable moments. Her easy-going, conversational demeanor coupled with a soft, expressive alto permeated the memorable hour in banter and song that never dragged. Too, offering some of her original poetry added a human touch that was carefully constructed so as not to be overindulgent. And, that poetry had real meaning as it seamlessly blended into the show.

 There were other special highlights during the hour that included: Why Can't I Forget? (Harris) that was poignant. David Friedman's What Was I Dreamin' Of? carried her insightful, reflective theme even further. Gary White's folksy Long, Long Time came from a yearning, wistful place within that was heartfelt without being overtly melancholic. This was perfect for her well-controlled vibrato which she used sparingly. Frequently, Ms. Carlin sang such wholesome ballads but wisely stopped short of becoming maudlin. It was rather like a pleasant trip down memory lane from one looking back on homespun tidbits taken from a life that has real meaning. This was even more evident with a serene reading of Julie Gold's The Journey that effortlessly wrapped up this special show by a lady one wants to see more of. It was preceded by a reading of Ms. Carlin's gentle poem, My Damage Will Save Me adding a nice touch.

 While those tender ballads hit the mark, with the exception of the mainstay, You Fascinate Me So (Leigh-Coleman,) which was overly sad, she might play more with comic timing on the lighthearted numbers a bit more. Fluffy ditties like a campy parody of Memory (Lloyd Webber) from Cats, which had her joking about forgetting common things, called for more playful abandon and just plain silliness. And, the funny I Regret Everything might work even better with a more wacky spin. She did do a terrific job on Murray Grand's absurdity, I Always Say Hello To A Flower. More of this frivolous irony is called for. But minor quibbles take nothing away from a delightful show and would only complement the serious moments. That aside, Ruth Carlin is off and running in the right direction. And, she's a welcome addition to the current cabaret scene. Intelligence and warmth are vital factors in the success of any show in an intimate room. Ms. Carlin has both – in spades.

 Musical director Paul Greenwood's carefully crafted, subtle arrangements supported Carlin's every musical nuance to perfection. And, it was so nice that she paid tribute to the late singer Marianne Challis with whom she studied vocal technique by including her in her thank yous. Like her show, the lady has class. An official CD release for her new album is planned for the spring.

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