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Nicki Jaine

Live

(self-released; US: 2006; UK: 2006)

Live subscribes to a romantic bitter-chocolate idea of cabaret: slightly cynical but not savage, faintly decadent, a little world-weary, a touch drunk; a deepened female voice, a piano, a black scarf thrown around a white neck. Nicki Jaine’s voice is strong, approaching stridency, but she knows how to curl it in a moue before it can sound bossy. “Pretty faces are a dime a dozen / Pretty faces are always for sale”, she sings, and the voice winks at you. She has a knack for suggestive lyrics. (What is “the sound of girls breaking”? What is the “pigeon named Crow” doing alone in its horrible landscape?) The songs were recorded in several different venues, and sometimes the quality of the background atmosphere changes, but this is really only a problem on Brecht and Weill’s “Alabama Song”. She must have been singing in front of people eating dinner, because they clank their plates and chatter all the way through the track. Things like this make the CD seem a little unfinished or rushed, but it’s still well worth a look.

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