The Infinite Jukebox: Lake Street Dive’s ‘What I’m Doing Here’

Among the many things I gained from a decades-long enthusiasm for the works of Clive James was an introduction to the works of Lake Street Drive, a jazz-rock band who’ve been around since the beginning of the 2010s. I am not normally a fan of any kind of jazz, and especially not anything that falls into the bracket of trad, but based on his panegyric to the voice of singer Rachael Price, I went on YouTube. And now I have all their CDs to date and the ambition to see them live.
Lake Street Dive are a compact four piece consisting of Mike ‘McDuck’ Olsen on guitars and trumpet, Mike Calabrese on drums and Bridget Kearney on stand-up bass, plus the aforementioned Ms Price on vocals, with all three of the other members on backing vocals. Their music is tight and complex, utilising a mainly rock-oriented sound but jazz inflections and constructions. And in Rachael Price they have a woman with a stunningly rich voice.
Her voice is warm, throaty, flexible and she’s in complete control of her range, owing nothing to studio trickery whatsoever. That she’s also stone cold gorgeous is a bonus.
That first song I was exposed to on YouTube was ‘What I’m Doing Here’. To my chagrin, it is not available on CD, but only as the lead side of a 7″ single, and me with no record player any more. It’s a slow ballad, built upon a primarily piano track, with Price ranging throughout her entire vocal repertoire over its length, trying to decide for herself whether or not the boyfriend she has is worth keeping.
Nobody knows what I’m doing here, she sings, and admits that she herself hasn’t got a clue. What she is doing is messing around with these other fools, when she’s not with him. But what seems obvious to everyone else, that he is the one she should be with, is far less obvious to Rachael. She knows she’s wasting her time with these other losers, but questions whether the boyfriend she’s avoiding is so good a bet for her. Their relationship is turbulent: yes, they’re in love, or he’s in love and she has feelings for him, but there are times when things are turbulent and that love is not enough.
And while they wonder, they who are unnamed but are her friends, and are here represented by the backing vocals of the band, what she’s doing with these fools and losers, Rachael herself wonders, knowing that they are not enough for her, they are beneath her, and why she is here and not elsewhere is as much a mystery to her as it is to her friends.
But not necessarily the same mystery. If they are that much below the boyfriend she, on one level loves, why does she spend her time with them and not him? What is she seeing that she can’t see that she’s seeing? Her voice dips and soars, asking herself a question she cannot answer, hoping to find in the music the explanation, and the key to what she should do in order to move forward.
That she can’t find it yet is no fault of the honesty with which she interrogates herself. If the answer is in her voice, it will come. In the meantime, being caught between choices like Hamlet has never sounded so musically compelling.
And she sings it in one single take in the video attached below. Incredible.

2 thoughts on “The Infinite Jukebox: Lake Street Dive’s ‘What I’m Doing Here’

  1. Many thanks Martin. I was always interested in what Clive had to say on music but this had not been picked up by my radar at all. Yes a truly stunning voice and a tight band. I needed somethi8 like this in these dark days. Currently I am intermitt0 dipping into Clive’s TV reviews a constant delight and the bonus of actually remembering seeing the shows is wonderful… his sports comments are particularly good but his views on kojak, 6 million dollar man etc are equally great.
    Keep well.

    1. Hi Colin. This isn’t necessarily representative of Lake Street Dive but it is of Rachael Price’s voice and the lady could sing a copy of ‘Helo’ magazine and make it sound good. The TV revews were where I started with Clive: he was just so bloody good.

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