My half century of posts came and went without me noticing, but, once I realised the fact, it made me think: I haven’t featured any singer-songwriters yet! This post will, I hope, correct that glaring omission.
The tradition of mournful-sounding female singer-songwriters was brought to an art form by Nina Nastasia, who lives in Chelsea, a suburb of Manhattan. She likes to surround herself with a wide entourage of musicians, including a cello player and a Tuvan throat music group. Notwithstanding, she resists the urge to make a joyful, uplifting sound: her music is dark as a funeral shroud yet somehow quietly compelling for those in the mood.
She had been writing songs for 10 years before Dogs hit the streets in 2000. Steve Albini gave a copy to JP, who called it ‘amazing’, and wrote of Nastasia:
(Her) songs are very direct without being posy or too clever. There’s an attractive air of melancholy without self-pity. [Mojo magazine]
He then gave Dogs considerable airplay, as it had become unavailable (the original 1,500 copy pressing had quickly sold out, Nastasia having packaged the LPs herself in her apartment), in addition to booking her for six sessions. Ugly Face (FF 2002 #4), a grim picture of domestic violence (‘I want you…I want to strike you’), comes from the album The Blackened Air. Its slow, waltz-like tempo is sustained throughout You, Her And Me (FF 2003 #13), from Run To Ruin, which tells the story of an eternal triangle resulting in murder. Nina has signed to Fat Cat records (from her original Touch And Go label) and will no doubt be spreading sunshine and happiness for years to come.
The CDs are currently only available on import in the UK.