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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ingrid Lucia: Living the Life (CD Baby)

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There’s always been something about New Orleans chanteuse Ingrid Lucia’s voice—twee, sprightly, all Southern belle seduction and a bit of Billie Holiday-before-the-decline—that has been above the quality of her songs. Maybe she doesn’t quite validate the clichéd claim of singing the phonebook. But even when her material can be kind of silly, playful and completely inconsequential (cuts about “Going Dancing” or wanting to “Put the Radio On”?), any listener interested in old jazz, tender soul or sexuality in song would have to wonder, “Who’s this?”                

She opens Living the Life with whiffs of Norah Jones, leaning toward quirky indie pop on the arrangement of The Kinks’ “Do You Remember Walter?,” which sounds much like the recording came after a night of over-indulgence on side 2 of Abbey Road. And then it’s all over the place. There is what wants to be a Mexican wedding song (“Mexican Love Song”), cabaret heartbreak (“Dreams Aren’t Just for the Young”), rom-com soundtrack weepiness (Jesse Winchester’s “I Wave Bye Bye”), and enough torch balladry vibe for all the misty nights in the entire South.        

It’s a mostly quiet, tender affair, with brushy percussion work, solid but subtle N’awlins strut, and a palpable sense of all the swaying, cooing, knowing winks and batted eyelashes of a seasoned vet of the saucy happy hour set. But despite the surface preciousness, kewpie doll vulnerability, or the fact that maybe she should be laying on a piano in an old-timey hotel lounge somewhere, there’s an undeniable soul. And she’s got the story to back it: Lucia was partially raised in a family of itinerant buskers and street entertainers.

So, yes, there’s some hard-won wisdom. But, whatever: All that truly matters is that voice. Smoke around the edges, a little warble, Dixie insouciance, lilting grace—she’s like the pipedream of every nap-bound toddler. Check the flutter on the light funk of “Yes Yes Girl.” This has to be one of the most distinct resonances in the most peculiar sounding city. No small marvel.