Review: Nikka Costa – Pebble to a Pearl

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Label: Stax

Released: October 14, 2008

Soul has become a genre dominated by artists that have a real shortage of, well, soul. Sure, there’s Jill Scott and a renaissance for Sharon Jones and Bettye Levette. That first Joss Stone album a few years back was even pretty good. But for each of these artists, there seems to be bazillions of good voices over bad beats and samples that are completely devoid of anything that could even be mistaken for soul.

Into this scene steps Nikka Costa on her new album, Pebble to a Pearl. The first thing that’s striking is how retro her sound is. She draws largely from 60s soul and 70s funk, but what really ties her to those days, even more than the arrangements, is that her music is so warm and organic. Costa’s voice has the ability to be pristine one moment and sultry the next. She can put enough power into a song to make it undeniably moving. The backing band doesn’t have that stiff studio musician sound either. Costa and her band move together in the music, something generally absent from the genre today.

Costa doesn’t nail every song on Pebble to a Pearl. She’s at her best when she draws on the raw emotion of her 60s predecessors than she is reliving the tighter funkiness of the 70s, but her voice alone is a pleasure even on the worst of the tracks. On the songs that really cut her loose though, she a powerful confidence that demands she be taken more seriously than most of her peers.

Ratings
Satriani: 8/10
Zappa: 6/10
Dylan: 6/10
Aretha: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

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About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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