Rebecca Angel puts contemporary spin on “Just the Two of Us”

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From Timeless Grooves Records comes a single by Rebecca Angel that is exactly that: a timeless groove. On a recording released in late spring 2021, Angel presents her version of the Bill Withers’ classic: “Just the Two of Us.”

In 2021, “Just the Two of Us” takes on meaning beyond the obvious romantic implications. With most of the world sequestered in their homes with loved ones, sometimes “just the two of us” refers to everyone who is legally allowed in a residence. In addition, the line, “we can make it if we try” also takes on a new meaning in a pandemic era.

However, Angel also has romantic intentions with the song. “Just the Two of Us.” The song was the first she played as part of a duo with her now-husband, Jonah Prendergast. The two met while students at Ithaca College. The pair were studying music.

Bill Withers: “Just the Two of Us” and beyond

Soulful singer Bill Withers was known for a string of hits throughout the 1970s. Among them are “Lean on Me” (1972), “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971), and “Lovely Day” (1977). “Just the Two of Us” was recorded in 1980 and released in 1981. The song proved to be a significant to Withers’ legacy as an iconic voice in the genres of soul and r&b. “Just the Two of Us,” which features saxophone work by Grover Washington Jr., is also considered a smooth jazz single.

Withers’ music has been included in a number of compilation recordings and sampled on hip-hop records. His work also appears in movies. One notable example is the 1989 movie, “Lean On Me” which features a version of the song by Gospel singers The Winans and Sandra Reaves-Philips. The song was also given a reggae-flavored update in the late 1990s by r&b group Club Nouveau.

Sadly, Withers passed away in 2020 reportedly of complications of heart disease. Another icon lost during a globally traumatic year.

“Just the Two of Us”: Rebecca Angel

The familiar bones of the song are present. Here, they have been re-constituted to allow for a lush introduction complete with percussion, bass, and keyboards. The keyboard motif is much like the original’s, and that is what will inform listeners. Angel’s singing is augmented by the backing vocals of Maya Azucena. The soundscape is smooth, and makes for dancing and singing along just as much as the original.

The saxophone solo from the original is here, too. In Angel’s version, it is surrounded by vocalese. Angel’s voice is supple; her delivery is clear. That this version is original and up-to-the-minute detracts nothing from Withers’ original. The vamping comes back and takes listeners into the fade out. The song is brief and beautiful. “Just the Two of Us” gets an update that listeners were not aware it needed. And, certainly there is room for both versions. However, it is to Angel’s credit that her version takes on various meanings.

“Just the Two of Us” the single, paves the way for the full-length release available June 2021. For more about Rebecca Angel, visit http://www.rebeccaangel.net.

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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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