I hadn’t thought of Nellie McKay in a long while. I remember when she first came out she was a critic’s darling, and I distinctly remember her voice was similar to Blossom Dearie’s. I recently found out she has a new album of standards called ‘Sister Orchid’ and decided to put it on the playlist I listen to on my daily walks. I found that whenever a track from the album came on, I relished it and paid attention. So, I went ahead and listened to the album itself.
And it’s an interesting one, for sure. Her voice is not as delicate as Dearie’s. Oddly enough, it reminds me more of Peggy Lee’s, especially in her ‘My Romance.’ which seems to be channeling Lee’s. This is a very atmospheric album – the arrangements are all over the place yet the intimacy of her singing makes the whole album cohesive. I felt like I was in a room with just me and her singing to me, and I heard and understood every single word she was singing. She means these lyrics to her core. I never felt the words to ‘The Nearness Of You’ more, for example. This is a late-night album, akin to a Julie London one. I don’t know if I love all of it, to be honest, (the abrupt change int one in ‘Willow Weep For Me’ is jarring) but I know I pay attention when it’s playing. That’s more than I can say for any jazz vocal album I have listened to lately.