Dayna Kurtz, “Here Vol. 1” (Kismet)

dayna-kurtz-here-vol-1Dayna Kurtz was a natural fit in New Orleans even before she moved to the city a few years back. Her love of New Orleans R&B and thirst for deep tracks of any description gave her records an esoteric flavor that places her in the tradition of the city’s ongoing musical eccentricity. Her powerful, dramatic singing is as rooted as her taste. Now she’s part of the local canon and Here Vol. 1, presumably referring to her new residence in Louisiana, reflects her sensibility as a denizen. Though the album only contains eight songs, it was recorded live with none of the tracks less than 4 minutes 37 seconds and a total running time of around 45 minutes, which is pretty standard for a full album release. Guitarist Robert Mache offers understated and thoughtful accompaniment, framing Kurtz’s versatile voice delicately on the waltz-time “Fred Astaire” and the Betty Harris classic “I’ll Be a Liar.” The applause really kicks in when Kurtz belts out the slow burning “Billboards for Jesus.” She includes an outstanding remake of “Love Gets in the Way,” from her first album Postcards From Downtown, and matches the heartrending pairing of “If I Go First,” a lover’s pledge from beyond the grave, with “Raise the Last Glass,” which she calls “a drinking song for the apocalypse.” Many have sung the praises of New Orleans, but few as effectively as Kurtz does in “NOLA.” “I’ve nothing of value to bring you,” she sings. “I come to you, you wasted and poor/ Please take me in your scented arms/ New Orleans I’m coming for more.”