Popular music has a long list of satisfying drinking songs sung by persuasive vocalists. These range from the country honkytonk of Merle Haggard‘s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” to the suave blues of Amos Milburn‘s “Bad, Bad Whisky” to the sophisticated orchestration of Frank Sinatra‘s “One for My Baby.” Drinking songs have kept a lot of people, in a lot of places, in a lot of different mental states, company. I’ve never heard a better drinking song than “Drinking Again,” and I’ve never heard “Drinking Again” sung better than the one sung by Dinah Washington on this collection. A world of hurt, resignation, irony, and a hard-won education show up in the subtlest of pauses, or in the way that one syllable is slightly more emphasized than those preceding it. It’s a powerful enough performance to make a sober person want to break up with someone and get drunk, just to commiserate at the bar with Dinah.
But Dinah Washington wouldn’t stick a drinking partner with just one tune. So you get the ebullient “Destination Moon,” with its rocket ship arrangement pushing as Dinah confidently hangs back on the time; the torchy “A Handful of Stars”; and the “We’re gonna get this straightened out right now” authority of “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” “Red Sails in the Sunset” shows how early rock ‘n’ roll really sounded (I’d love to know who the guitar player is). And “Where are You,” with its sumptuous vocal quartet, builds up to a five voice chord that will separate your head from your shoulders.
Not enough? The album is book-ended with “Me and My Gin.” You get to join Dinah back at the bar again.