Add to that her consistently engaging delivery and superb songwriting skills, and what you get is a dozen seamless tracks and a very rewarding musical experience. Known as a roots blues artist, Modern Classic covers that territory as well as jazz and torch ballads. Ms. Banks moves effortlessly from sexy and sultry to playful and tongue-in-cheek. Backed by the Duke Robillard Band and members of the Roomful of Blues Horns, the arrangements showcase not only her skillful lyrics but also her mastery of form.
Most of these songs seem familiar, as if they had been written back in the late 40s and existed in your buried memories, only to be excavated by Ms. Banks. This album shows why the Canadian Queen of Jazz is the perfect artist to share the stage with a performer of the caliber of Harry Connick, Jr. Ms. Banks recording sits very comfortably on the shelf alongside Connick's best work.
The album opens with “A Man is Just a Man,” a smooth mid-tempo number that allows Banks’ voice to hover and float above the supper club treatment Duke and band lay down. Speaking of Robillard, the question isn’t where has he been lately, but, rather, where hasn’t he been? It feels like he is producing and playing on every other blues release these days. And that is not a complaint. Thankfully, Robillard seems to be instrumental in making sure we get to hear artists like Billy Boy Arnold and Robin Banks.
All of the songs on Modern Classic are originals and the joy is how consistently good they are, there are no mood breakers here. Banks sets the tone early and stays the course, avoiding the mistake of trying to be too stylistically diverse. She has the savvy to avoid the vanity mistake of going too far afield, instead displaying the diversity of her gifts with a collection of songs that complement each other rather than compete for the listener’s affections. And in so doing Banks builds the room she needs within the twelve tunes to stretch and expand her vocal presentation. Modern Classic is an offering that more than lives up to its name. Favorite tracks include “Superhero,” “I’ll Meet You There,” and the ironically named honky tonk country track “A Place in the City.”