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By Simon McCormack
Over her decade-long career in music, 28-year-old singer/songwriter Erin McKeown has earned distinction for her wryly upbeat lyrics and a vocal style that isn’t as much about virtuosity as it is honesty. But, ironically, McKeown’s originality shines through best on her newest album, Sing You Sinners, which offers up 13 tracks of music standards from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland’s “Get Happy” might be the album’s most recognizable tune but it’s also one of the best examples of McKeown’s ability to play around with a classic and not muck it up in the process. McKeown’s voice may not be able to reach the heights that Garland’s did, but she can deliver a verse with a punch powerful enough to leave a prize fighter reeling, while keeping her tone jaunty.
McKeown is careful not to embellish too much or stray too far from the original concept. Still, her stamp is unmistakably left on every track she touches and she plans to continue to amend the songs on her tour to support Sinners. “Being out for eight weeks, I can't even begin to imagine how these songs will grow and become more and more unique and rambunctious,” McKeown says in her label’s press release.
To help ensure a successful transformation from the recording studio to the live stage, McKeown has enlisted the help of organist and pianist Erik Deutsch and drummer Allison Miller, who McKeown believes will help her “re-invent these standards night after night.”
One reinvention session will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at an AMP House Concert. McKeown didn’t want just any old place to play in New Mexico. The warm, friendly confines of a house-style performance were of special interest to the young folksinger. “For this tour, we've chosen more intimate rooms in each city to give people a closer seat to the action,” McKeown explains in the release. “Actually, I prefer it that way ... I feed so much off the energy of the listeners; I need their response right away, so I am looking forward to playing right in people's laps." Our laps eagerly await your presence, E.M.
Erin McKeown plays an AMP House Concert on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Log on to www.abqmusic.com/houseconcerts.html for more information. $15 suggested donation.
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