Cry, Cry, Baby
by Nina Nastasia on FatCat Records
Preceding the release of ‘Outlaster‘, seminal American singer / songwriter Nina Nastasia’s first album in three years, came this great 2-track digital single. The opening track from the new album, ‘Cry, Cry, Baby’ serves as both a neat re-introduction to Nina’s work and in particular, to the sumptuous new sound of the album – a lush, orchestrated sophistication that, with no loss of distinction or economy, transcends the traditional reach of her famed spareness.
Recorded once more with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, Nina engaged Los Angeles musician and arranger Paul Bryan (whose collaborative credits include Aimee Mann, Grant Lee Phillips & others, and who’s worked as an instrumentalist with Allen Toussaint, Mavis Staples, Lucinda Willams, & many more) to adapt her songs into a score for a small orchestra. Then Nina and her long-time companion / collaborator Kennan Gudjonsson assembled string and woodwind quartets, finding the perfect complement with drummer Jay Bellerose (of Nina’s critically acclaimed albums ‘The Blackened Air’ & ‘On Leaving’) and Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise).
The orchestra takes a more formal approach with Paul Bryan’s powerfully affecting score, hearkening back to the likes of Gil Evans and the late Phil Ochs. Burnished with lustrous horns and reeds bolstered by a string ensemble, the record marks a distinct shift as much for her record label as for Nina Nastasia herself. ‘Cry, Cry, Baby’ is a perfect vehicle for Nina’s stunning and masterful voice. A beautiful, stately slow-burn of a song, it sees her vocal swoop and fall in powerfully emotive ways that few of her peers can match, perfectly foiled by the incredibly impressive but unshowy musicianship. Deeply moving and mature, it’s simply very, very classy stuff.
Recorded separately from the album sessions and exclusive to this single, the second track, ‘Our Gang’ is one of Nina’s newest songs, an intimate preview destined for broader arrangements in the future. As ever with Nina, there’s no such thing as a throwaway or a casual tossed-out song.