Ukulele And Waves (Music Thoughts: Bagatelles, Nellie McKay)

813BH3uavhL._SX466_I have been championing Nellie McKay from the very beginning. She is one of the few modern singers who sings songs from the Great American Songbook with a style that’s original. You know she has great love for these songs but she always takes a different route with how she interprets them. There are times when I disagree with how she sings them, but they are always interesting. In her new EP ‘Bagatelles,’ she takes her spare approach to songs even sparer. The best way I could describe this recording is that you feel like you were in an elementary music room with McKay, and somehow it works. You may not think initially they do, but then you realize the brilliance right after. Take for example, her take here of Cole Porter’s ‘I Concentrate On You.’ She sings it acapella, and what does she have in the background? the sound of waves and seagulls. Weird, but as you listen to it more, you get what she is going for – you get the urgency of how one feels when one is deeply in love with another person, and the tune becomes a whisper, as she confesses to you her precious love. I am obsessed with it. I personally also like the tracks where she just accompanies herself with a ukulele – they feel personal, and you cannot help but pay attention to the lyrics and phrasing. When McKay first started, people compared her voice to Blossom Dearie, but I don’t think that’s accurate anymore – it;s deepened and sounds much richer, as her accompaniments become more spare. She and this album is a total delight.

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