Linnzi Zaorski, Hot Wax and Whiskey (Independent)

On this, her third release, retro torch singer Linnzi Zaorski appears to have realized if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Her ’30s-drenched vocals, all thin, vibrato and nasal, have become a fixture in the Frenchmen Street music scene that birthed such neo/trad-jazz ensembles as the New Orleans Jazz Vipers and Vavavoom. Three albums in, Zaorski’s familiar vocals have become even more familiar, and it’s a tough call on whether she should seek fresher ground because she’s so capable of doing what she does.

There’s a curious, methodical way in which Zaorski sings—like a comic playing a joke “straight”—that feels both fabricated and charming all at once. Sometimes she’ll swing that vibrato all the way through a phrase, and then she’ll almost flatten a lyric for effect, as a punctuation mark. Catching her live, you’re guaranteed a wardrobe straight out of Trashy Diva and a gardenia to nod to Billie Holiday and her sisters. Has it become all too predictable? Her song choices certainly have become that, but again, they may be predictable, but they’re thoroughly enjoyable, and there’s a “Hot Club” vibe every song out—particularly with “This Can’t Be Love,” in which the guitar and clarinet get ample solo workouts.

“Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” and “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” have been done a million times over, and Zaorski seems neither intimidated nor inspired to add much new to the proceedings. (Indeed, they’re as much a showcase for the band as they are for her squeaky vocals.) But considering how much the latter has been played for dramatic post-Katrina effect, maybe the safe, more familiar path is a more daring one.

Zaorski isn’t the first songbird to dwell sweetly in the past; powerhouse older sisters Debbie Davis, Ingrid Lucia and Julia La Shae got there years ago, and are a bit more nuanced in their excavations. But Zaorski just keeps coming, gardenia in curled blond locks, songbook under arm, and keeps delivering the goods. These days, it’s a comforting notion.