Erin McKeown

After four albums of exceptional, introspective folk-pop musings, it's something of a shock to find Erin McKeown turning her attention to jazz gems of the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties. Still, she does a credible job of capturing the spirit of those songs with a wink and a nudge of irreverence and enticement. Though an able frontwoman, she doesn't ooze the simmering sensuality that ought to accompany the material's smoke-ringed sensibilities. However, when she hands the musical reigns to her small but assured back-up band, she literally gets in the groove via sheer exhilaration. Opening track "Get Happy," one of the set's better-known entries, begins as gospel shout-out only to detour suddenly into jazz and jive. Likewise "Paper Moon" becomes all but unrecognizable under the influence of its sambalike sway, while other songs are fast-paced performances propelled by kinetic drumming and brassy embellishment. McKeown's shift in direction might be unexpected, but if this is the work of a sinner, there's no reason to repent. — Lee Zimmerman


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