“Nellie McKay is a genius in the jazz world, able to swirl together cutting comedy and caustic commentary with a voice charming enough to make bitter pills go down like sweet nothings.”
Nellie McKay sings melancholy standards about love on her new album: Sister Orchid. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with McKay about her music that she performs alone.
Nellie McKay checks in with Todd Steed to talk about her instant classic, Sister Orchid. She also lets loose on social ills, swimming pools and more. Listen here!
Nellie McKay Brings ‘Sister Orchid,’ and Plenty of Wry Perspective, to Singers Unlimited
Nellie McKay has a longstanding history with Michael Bourne and Singers Unlimited — all the way back to her major-label debut, Get Away From Me, nearly 15 years ago. Now she has a new solo album of standards called Sister Orchid. She came in to talk about it with Michael, and to perform a few songs in our studio.
NPR Music: “The Nearness of You”
“The bottom line for McKay, it would seem, is that there’s always another level, a deeper layer…”The Nearness of You” is a veritable jazz standard — composed 80 years ago by Hoagy Carmichael, and recorded since by everybody from Harry James to Norah Jones. The song is invariably performed at a ballad tempo like this one. But McKay brings an odd bittersweetness, and maybe a whiff of sublimated tragedy, to her delivery. Could she be singing to a sense memory, or a ghost? Every possibility seems plausible.”
NPR Music: “Small Day Tomorrow”
“Sister Orchid evokes dusty rooms, old photograph albums with fraying, yellowed sepia prints, ghosts, inebriation, faded beauty, and heartache.”