What does one get when crossing the innocent, vintage look and feel of Holly Golightly (of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame) with the unique solo style of Joanna Newsome, both complemented by an intelligent acknowledgement of both local and national politics? Nellie McKay.
Despite starting quite a bit later than advertised, at a recent show at Seattle’s Neumo’s, McKay’s earnest lyrical approach, coupled with her relentless attack on the ivory keys and political banter, earned her clear appreciation from the relatively small crowd. Playing such favorites as “David” and the odd-ball sing-along “Pounce,” McKay engaged the crowd musically and politically, at one point commenting (about Seattle’s recently-enacted plastic bag tax), “let’s hear it for the 20 cent plastic bag fee. That’s right, you’d better cheer & clap, motherfuckers.”
Clearly a talented performer, McKay bounced easily between upbeat and downbeat songs, showcasing her unique, but beautiful voice, and easily exchanging banter – and lyrics – with the crowd. Indeed, the crowd itself was arguably one of the interesting parts of the show, with a diversity not always seen attending to popular indie-folk musicians. That breadth complemented McKay’s distinctive, captivating style, and is doubtless one of the reasons she has enjoyed a growing audience despite repeated record release and label troubles.