Nellie McKay: My Weekly Reader

Renegade pop classicist goes back to the Sixties, finds 2015

Credit: David Kogut

"I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit," spits Nellie McKay in "Murder in My Heart for the Judge," a Moby Grape jam smartly reanimated for the Ferguson era. A renegade songwriter with an ultraflexible Great American Songbook sensibility, McKay finds modern resonances everywhere in this inspired covers set: The fiscal crash clouds the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon"; the schools crisis haunts Frank Zappa's "Hungry Freaks, Daddy." McKay mostly plays these straight, letting her musical smarts add the context. See the Crosby, Stills and Nash/Jefferson Airplane tune "Wooden Ships," colored with marimba and delivered with Sinatra-like precision — an apocalyptic sci-fi hash dream that still rings true.