I’ve called Cindy Scott’s debut album, Major to Minor, my favorite album by a local female singer. Her follow-up, Let the Devil Take Tomorrow, kept up her high standards. Historia, her latest release, bolsters my contention that Scott makes CDs the equal of any New Orleans singer. Her musicality and her versatility have never been in doubt. Here is a Gringa who sings well in Spanish and Portuguese. She can swoop and dive into the blues like a Motown diva or yelp and cry like a country queen. Her voice is a multi-hued instrument that keeps monotony at bay.
What surfaces anew on Historia is the strength of her lyric writing. She had originals on her second disc, but her vision is stronger here. The opening track, “Shaw Nuff,” uses a device, once very common in jazz circles, of adding lyrics to a bebop line a la Eddie Jefferson. Scott’s affirmative lyrics and Brian Seeger’s New Orleans tresillo arrangement make this a forceful starter.
The disc continues with “There is No Greater Love” which is radically re-harmonized, and Scott’s “What’s Coming Atcha” uses a nicely odd meter. Then it’s time for a Mexican bolero sung in English and Spanish, with guitarist Seeger playing delicate squeals in support, followed by Anders Osborne’s “It’s Gonna Be Okay.”
Scott is conscious of varying timbre, so she brings her mentor, the always wonderful singer Karrin Allyson, on for duets on Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround” and Allyson’s “Some of That Sunshine.” Scott holds her own and then some with her famous counterpart.
There are three other standards. “Shenandoah” varies timbre again with its vocal with flute and bass duet format. Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining” and Cole Porter’s Brazilified “I Concentrate on You” are more straightforward but each has moments of gorgeousness.
The album’s highlight may be “Laura Lee,” with Scott’s Civil War soldier’s tale melded onto a striking Seeger melody. Her voice contains just the right balance of power and helpless quiver, and the band backs her up perfectly—a dynamic performance.