Carsie Blanton, Not Old, Not New (So Ferocious)

Carsie Blanton, Not Old, Not New, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, September 2014

Sex sells in almost any form of popular music, but it’s a rare bird who can create a truly sensual atmosphere that works as more than just marketing strategy. Carsie Blanton does just that with Not Old, Not New. Other than the 45-second coda she wrote herself, the whole album consists of nothing but jazz covers from an ancient time when our dirtiest thoughts were merely implied—at its best, censorship as poetry.

Most of these 10 artifacts take a slightly more subtle approach than Julia Lee’s 1950 strut, “Don’t Come Too Soon” (“You’re goin’ too fast / You better take care / You might have a flat / And you ain’t got no spare”), but thanks to the crystal clarity of Banton’s voice and her deliciously sultry delivery, you don’t need to pay close attention to suss out the moral ambiguities of sex and its role in society, then and now.

Her version of “Azalea” does for that flower what Georgia O’Keefe did for the iris, while Gershwin’s is-she-or-isn’t-she sugar-baby ballad “Laziest Gal in Town” is perfect for her vocal approach, one which splits the difference between sex kitten and libertine.

It might seem counterintuitive for one of Americana’s best modern songwriters to take on the Great (Old) American Songbook, especially one who’s best known for moving between folk and rock, but since Blanton’s originals have always been teasingly playful about the war between the sexes, the battlefront in the sheets is a natural place for her to file a report.

Rarely does a little something sound both so inviting and this deep—and, in relighting these songs with the warm glow of the Crescent City (“lazy” and “sleepy” get used a lot), Blanton gives them a new context: sexual liberation as a serious hobby.