Rachael and Vilray play swing music of yesteryear with a side of charm and wit


Without any introduction or explanation otherwise, anyone listening to swing duo Rachael and Vilray would think that the duo had stepped right out of the 1930s or 1940s to bring the world harmony and humor-rich songs that shake away the anxieties and doldrums of the present day.

Recently, the pair appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terri Gross for conversation and concert. During the episode, listeners learned about how the duo met, their performance quirks, and the essential journey that their work has taken them on. It was an insightful time. While the conversation was certainly interesting, audiences couldn’t help but get a little impatient for the next song.

The duo mostly plays originals, but some tribute tunes have worked their way into their repertoire. Rachael and Vilray use one old-fashioned microphone, and are accompanied only by Vilray’s guitar. Not that people would notice right away, unless they saw the pair live. Otherwise, through the medium of radio or recording, the sound is rich and full, and audiences can imagine the clicking of drums and the thumping of an upright bass that is not there.

The appeal of Rachael and Vilray

Obviously people who love swing music from 70 or 80-plus years ago will gravitate toward the pair. But there is something else, too, that makes audiences want to pay attention to the duo with the stripped down approach. That quality seems to be the musicians’ genuine love of what they are doing. That appreciation for an older style of music comes through with each note, each phrase, each intuited wink. Of course, it does not hurt that the players are tremendously talented singers and Vilray’s guitar playing is flexible and present, but never overpowers the soundscape the duo creates.

In an age where even Ozzy Osbourne raps a little (see his duet with Post Malone, “Take What You Want From Me”), and auto-tune has stopped being a secret, and shows like “The Masked Singer” sometimes finds singers pretending to be other singers, or rappers pretending to be singers, it is refreshing to just get back to the music. No, the calendar won’t go backward. But, to hear two people sing with wit, charm, and most importantly, talent, about love in various contexts is nice. The music they make is not for the audience that needs to headbang all the time. But it is appropriate for people who want to hear first-class singing and playing with a side of fun or natural emotions.

Rachael and Vilray are keeping alive the tradition of the parlor concert, from the age before recordings and reviving forgotten gems of the radio era, while adding new songs that timeworn to their catalog.

Two songs by Rachael and Vilray that must be heard are “Laundromat Swing” and “Do Friends Fall In Love?”

A bit about Rachael and Vilray

The pair met at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2003. Vilray played in bands with musicians who would become Price’s bandmates They are based in Brooklyn, New York. Rachael Price is the lead singer of the rock band, Lake Street Dive. They began collaborating in 2015. According to the duo’s website, Rachael was impressed with Vilray’s songwriting and poetry skills. He could write songs about anything, including random Wikipedia entries. More than a decade later, the two are making cool music together.

The duo’s self-titled debut album, “Rachael & Vilray” was released October 2019 on Nonesuch Records and digital platforms. Rachael and Vilray will be on a brief tour during July 2020, in which they will traverse Colorado and parts of the Northeast. For more information about the duo and their activities, visit: https://www.bandsintown.com/en/a/14535406-rachael-and-vilray.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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