Nina Simone and Meshell Ndegeocello share one obvious trait,
the ability to stretch the borders of musical genres beyond recognition.
Simone, while nominally a jazz vocalist and pianist, was as much a folk singer
and even an R&B performer throughout her long career as a major cult figure
and sometimes star. Ndegeocello has a pop hit duet with John Mellencamp in her
past, deep funk and jazz credentials, and accomplished avant-rock stylistic
She makes no attempt
to recreate the style of her heroine on this affectionate tribute. Joined by
Toshi Reagon, Sinead O’Connor, Lizz Wright, and Cody ChestnuTT, among others,
Ndegeocello simply takes ownership of songs as familiar as “House of the Rising
Sun,” Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” The love
she has for the originals is as palpable as her overwhelming originality in
covering them. Every cut shines with Ndgeocello’s brilliantly creative spirit.