Nellie McKay – Sister Orchid (2018)

Nellie McKay - Sister Orchid (2018)
Artist: Nellie McKay
Album: Sister Orchid
Genre: Vocal Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
My Romance (00:02:21)
Angel Eyes (00:02:01)
Small Day Tomorrow (00:03:32)
Willow Weep for Me (00:05:54)
The Nearness of You (00:02:17)
Georgia on My Mind (00:03:34)
Lazybones (00:03:10)
Where or When (00:02:41)
Everything Happens to Me (00:02:55)
In a Sentimental Mood (00:03:47)
My Romance (Reprise) (00:02:42)


Given her jazz-influenced sound and knack for thoughtfully chosen cover songs, it’s surprising that Nellie McKay had never released a complete jazz standards album until 2018’s smoky, intimately rendered Sister Orchid. The closest the idiosyncratic singer/songwriter had gotten previously was her brightly attenuated 2009 Doris Day tribute, Normal as Blueberry Pie, which found her investigating songs heavily associated with the iconic actress and singer. Similarly, on 2015’s My Weekly Reader, McKay took on some of her favorite ’60s pop tunes by bands like the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, Moby Grape, and others. Here, McKay takes a deftly straightforward approach, performing a set of well-chosen standards that wouldn’t be out of place on an album by Blossom Dearie (another McKay touchstone) from the 1950s. McKay, who arranged and played all of the songs on Sister Orchid, recorded the album in New York with engineer Chris Allen. Allen has worked with a bevy of jazz, folk, and pop artists including Kurt Elling, José James, Ingrid Michaelson, Andrew Bird, and others, and brings a soft, natural warmth that never interferes with McKay’s performance. Primarily, these are spare arrangements, often just McKay accompanying herself on piano, as on the haunting “Angel Eyes.” Elsewhere, as on her dusky reading of “Where or When,” she weaves in a mournful cello. There are also jaunty bits of ukulele, as on “Lazybones,” which also features her overdubbed backing vocals. The Broadway-tested McKay also displays her love of cabaret as she intersperses crowd chatter and clinking glasses to theatrical effect on “Everything Happens to Me.” Despite her penchant for artifice, McKay reveals her strong musical chops on Sister Orchid, launching into a mad-eyed boogie-woogie section on “Where or When” and delivering a spine-tingling, synth-accented take on “In a Sentimental Mood” that conjures the neon-soaked atmosphere of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Review by Matt Collar