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Live Review: Carsie Blanton at Rockwood Music Hall

On the heels of the release of her new jazz standards album, “Not Old, Not New”, singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton stopped in New York City on her long US tour. Rockwood Music Hall's cozy stage three was filled to bursting with enthusiastic fans. Blanton's laid-back, creative voice same out in her stage presence as well as in her music as she sang songs from her new album, previous albums and even a few new originals.

Carsie Blanton at Rockwood Music Hall
Kelly Koenig

The night started off with Duke Ellington's “Azalea”, off “Not Old, Not New". Carsie chose the road less-traveled for this album, selecting songs that have not seen as much time in the spotlight as better-known standards. She topped her album with this live performance, dropping the fuller instrumentation to bass player Joe Plowman and keyboardist Patrick Firth. Blanton's voice, reminiscent of Billie Holiday, has the subtle strength of a new spring tree, easily carrying the show even in completely unaccompanied moments. “Azalea” could easily become a well-known standard with Blanton's help.

Following her jazz intro, Blanton made her way through three of her own songs, “Backseat”, “Idiot Heart” and “Chicken”. Although Blanton's own music is inspired by various sources beyond jazz, it's easy to hear influences of zydeco, swing and rockabilly in Blanton's songs. “Backseat”, about traveling in the backseat of a car with a very hot but taken guy completed the steamy, tense atmosphere with well placed smacks on Joe Plowman's bass.

Turning briefly back to her jazz repertoire, Blanton sang another overlooked beauty, Hoagie Carmichael's “Two Sleepy People”. A great choice for her sweet voice her repertoire, Blanton sang it with her trademark repose and humor. This is another old jazz piece that could easily be revived by her rendition. Growing up immersed in music, Blanton is a perfect candidate for reviving old jazz favorites. The next jazz piece of the set was “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” was in Carsie's words “the song that started it all”. Sung originally by her much-loved Billie Holiday, she fell in love with it when she was thirteen. She took this song on with just her guitar, and carried the song with a fierce bravery not often seen in a world full of auto-tune.

Blanton's next piece “Fat and Happy”, a new original, proves that you should think twice before being mean to a songwriter. Your bad actions may be immortalized in song. Blanton's particular revenge featured a kazoo and a plenty of “Nyah Nyah Nyah”. “Your words may be bitter when you eat 'em again”, sang Blanton to raucous audience laughter. We can only hope that this song is on her next album so it can join the ranks of Lilly Allen's “F*ck You” and Carly Simon's “You're so Vain”.

Before wrapping up the evening with her singable, danceable “Baby Can Dance”, Carsie launched into a magical new original, “To Be Known”. This song created such a magical atmosphere, one could almost believe Carsie when she swears that a ghost possessed her and wrote the song. The song was written as she was walking down a moonlit street in the quiet French Quarter of her New Orleans home. As the wind swept down, Carsie was hit all at once with this enchanting song. Blanton showed off a beautiful ability to throw her voice as if she was calling from far away. The depth of the song and the voice singing it took the audience back to that moonlit, windswept street to the night Blanton was possessed by her muse.

Though she does not consider herself a jazz singer, Carsie Blanton has definitely proven herself in the world of jazz. She is clearly a musician and songwriter of substance. Her next album will be worth waiting for!

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