As the daughter of West End star and Eurovision entrant Francis Ruffelle and granddaughter of stage school impresario Sylvia Young, it's no surprise that Eliza Sophie Caird, aka Eliza Doolittle, has made the foray into the music industry. But despite her My Fair Lady-inspired moniker, her self-titled debut album doesn't follow the same musical theater path as her Les Miserables-starring mother, instead opting for a sound that cleverly fuses classic brass band instrumentation with modern ska-inflected production and Cosmo reader-friendly tales of early-twenties relationships. Whereas the likes of fellow retro vocalists Amy Winehouse and Duffy channeled the vintage '60s soul of the Shangri-Las and Dusty Springfield, Eliza Doolittle's 13 tracks hark back even further, to the postwar jazz-pop of music legends Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Breakthrough single "Pack Up," with its simple double-bass riffs, clever 1930s marching song sample, and old-school scat vocals, evokes the smoky atmosphere of a 1950s New Orleans jazz club, such is its authenticity. Its formula of brush-stroke percussion, bluesy guitars, and light airy melodies is repeated throughout the entire 13 tracks, but Doolittle's timeless and effortlessly dreamy tones make the slight repetitiveness a lot easier to endure. "Rollerblades" is a charming summery anthem, complete with a twinkling piano intro, shuffling rhythms, and an impossibly infectious chorus; "Skinny Genes" is a whistling-led cheeky ode to pure physical attraction; and the sparse acoustics of "A Smokey Room" echo the understated barroom jazz of Madeleine Peyroux. With the likes of Greg Kurstin (Kylie Minogue), Phil Thornalley (Natalie Imbruglia), and John Beck (Corinne Bailey Rae) on board, a few more contemporary influences inevitably creep in, such as the laid-back acoustic hip-hop beats of the Arrested Development-esque "Mr. Medicine" and the breezing lilting pop of the Lily Allen-ish "Nobody." But the album is much more at ease when plundering her vintage record collection, such as on the boogie-woogie opener "Moneybox" and the Motown-ish "So High." While its relentless chirpiness may be a little too twee for some, Eliza Doolittle is still a beguiling debut that would undoubtedly have found an audience even without the benefit of her showbiz background.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien