Vocalist Nasimiyu Murumba came to New Orleans from the Twin Cities in 2009, and it’s clear from the title to the lyrical content of her EP that she’s set on making a new home, and making her music about it. It Ain’t Pretty but It’s Beautiful collects six of her original songs, and it’s obvious from song titles such as “Bayou Black” and “Swamp Foot” that she’s taken New Orleans as a point of departure. “Bourbon Street Blues” is a nice surprise; it replaces the frat-funk the title suggests with a noir-ish look at “wading through this garbage lagoon in your high-heeled shoes.” It ain’t pretty or beautiful, this time.
The music fits, for the most part, with the jazz-inflected neo-soul that artists such as Angie Stone and Alicia Keys made popular. Nasimiyu and her five-piece band bring music school precision and afterschool whimsy to those slow, breathy vocals and repetitive piano parts. They show a different musical side on “Fortune Teller,” which picks up the tempo, turns down the slickness, and lets the band cut loose a bit over a sixteen-bar blues form.
It Ain’t Pretty but It’s Beautiful is, truthfully, plenty pretty. There’s a lot of sonic space around and even inside the band throughout the songs. That gives it a live feel, and the EP begins and ends with street noise to give us a sense of the music’s place and ours with respect to it.