Review : Nikka Costa – Nikka & Strings: Underneath and In Between (2017) 

Damian begins a new relationship- with strings attached  

Nikka Costa is an American singer whose music combines elements of soul, funk and blues.

She has worked alongside the best of the best from Frank Sinatra (her father, Don Costa, was an arranger for ‘Ol’ Blues Eyes’) and Prince, to Ray Charles, Ben Harper and Lenny Kravitz. ‘Nikka & Strings, Underneath And In Between’ is the singers eighth album release,

The album kicks off with a cover of the Prince penned ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, a stirring take on a song that was previously covered by The Family and Sinead O’Connor. I really loved the laid-back style of this version with a wonderful piano arrangement and great strings filling out this piece.

I must admit the Smokey Robinson-co-penned/Marvin Gaye-associated ’Ain’t That Peculiar’ isn’t a favourite of mine but I did really like this version. I mean it as a compliment that I almost didn`t recognise this song, it’s a great bluesy, lazy almost sleazy version and wouldn`t be out of place in those, sadly missed, dimly lit, smoky filled jazz / blues clubs.

`Love To love You Less` is a self-penned bluesy love song of sorts and a slightly different version than was issued on her 2008 release `Pebble to a Pearl’.

We get a great rendition of the Sinatra tune, ‘Come Rain or Come Shine,’ where the arrangement that her father originally wrote for the ‘Chairman Of The Board`, as Frank was nicknamed, is adapted. I really like Sinatra`s version but this is certainly up with it.

`Cry To Me` has been described as an ode to loneliness and desire, A tune made famous by the sadly missed preacher and singer Solomon Burke. A gospel and R&B standard that Nikka really owns as it lends itself to her superb vocal range. Her voice crying and pleading at times. Wonderful.

Another co-written song `Arms Around You` follows, written about having lost friends and loved ones and how we always have so much to say to someone once they are gone but it’s so important to say it when they are here. A very emotional offering.

`Headfirst` is a reimagined version of the track from Nikka`s 2011 six-track PRO☆WHOA! EP.

It still retains its funky style but has a great string arrangement to compliment it. A song I could really have imagined the late Price covering.

A heart-breaking version of the Jeff Buckley `Lover You Should’ve Come Over` is aired before `Silver Tongue` a song that was written with Prince and was released as the B side for his 2004 single `Call Your Name` from the “Musicology” album.

The penultimate track is a cover of `Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying` written and originally performed by Liverpool`s sixties beat group Gerry and the Pacemakers. It`s a delightfully slowed down jazzy version of a song which has tremendous lyrical content.

`Stormy Weather` a song that was first performed at the Cotton Club in Harlem in 1933 closes out the album and is a perfect standard on which to end. Nikka certainly does this classic justice.

A brave move indeed, as the song has been performed by luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Billie Holliday and even the man himself Bob Dylan. This lady puts her own stamp on it, with a slightly different twist.

The album was recorded in one day and is produced by Nikka`s husband Justin Stanley (Beck, Paul McCartney, Prince, Jimmy Cliff, Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, etc…) and Grammy nominee Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Simple Minds etc) This is a refreshing collection of songs, sung by somebody with a breathtaking vocal range and backed by a luscious string quartet.

Rating 9/10