NY Cabaret Music Reivew by Paulanne Simmons 


Just a glimpse at the song list for Ruth Carlin’s A Light in the Window: Songs of Judy Collins, her new show, which landed at the Duplex (61 Christopher St. on August 14, might have been a good indication of the magic she was going to create. But those who didn’t have that privileged had the pleasure of watching the show unfold as Carlin went from Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” to John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “In My Life.”

Of course, there were also several songs, such as “Albatross,” “Secret Gardens” and “The Blizzard,” from which the title of the show is drawn, that were written by Collins herself. And there was even a song by Carlin, “Ghosts of Love.”

What just about all of these songs had in common, was that they had been performed by Collins, a singer Carlin has been drawn to for many years. In fact, during the show, Carlin revealed some little and lesser known facts about the legendary singer. Many people know that Collins originally studied to be a classical pianist. But how many also know that her father was a blind radio disc jockey who first introduced her to folk, pop and jazz?

But perhaps what A Light in the Window best revealed about Collins is her great versatility. Collins sang not only traditional and modern folk ballads, she was also masterful with the work of Duke Ellington (“I Didn’t Know about You”), Stephen Sondheim (“Send in the Clowns”) and Kurt Weill (“Pirate Jenn”).

It’s not immediately obvious that Ruth Carlin is the ideal singer to interpret Collins. While Collins has a high bell-like voice with a delicate power. Carlin’s is much deeper and throaty; nor does she seem particularly comfortable or powerful in the higher range.

However, what Carlin lacks in strength she makes up in feeling. What’s more, musical director Paul Greenwood (piano) and the band (Dick Sarpola on bass and John Redsecker on drums) are keenly aware of how best to show off Carlin’s talents.

Ruth Carlin clearly has a history with these songs. This gave her performance a personal quality that was far more impressive than any technical virtuosity.