Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns have become a fixture on Frenchmen Street since their founding in 2009. The group plays a mellow brand of banjo-based parlor jazz, and tends toward the sultry love-song end of the traditional repertoire.
Lake is strongest on low-key numbers like the title track, a lovely tune in which her subtle, breathy vocals mingle tenderly with Shaye Cohn’s quivering cornet and Luke Winslow-King’s guitar. But she sings the album opener, “I’m Alone Because I Love You,” in an affected nasal warble that doesn’t quite suit her.
There are certainly some strong instrumental showings here as the record features quite a few Frenchmen regulars. Tom McDermott makes a strong guest appearance on “Gimme a Pigfoot.”
The cover is a painstaking recreation of a famous turn-of-the-century photo by E.J. Bellocq, of a prostitute in New Orleans’ Storyville District. Lake’s expression, her pose, her striped stockings, the dusty old photographs on the wall behind her—it’s all perfect. It’s also a good metaphor for the group’s approach. Lake’s music is attractive and solidly executed, but she sometimes seems more interested in the theatrical trappings of the jazz singer than in the music itself. I find myself wishing the group didn’t need to place its music in a self-consciously retro context to be convincing, but others may find it charming.