This reissue combines two of Simone's Colpix albums, Folksy Nina (1964) and Nina with Strings (1966), onto a single CD. Though it was taken from the same performance as 1963's Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall, Folksy Nina duplicates little of the material found on that prior album. It isn't just unworthy leftovers, but a strong set in its own right, concentrating on material that could be seen as traditional or folk in orientation. It's not exactly strictly folk music, in repertoire or arrangement. However, there was an uptempo piano blues (Leadbelly's "Silver City Bound") and covers of the Israeli "Erets Zavat Chalav" and "Vanetihu" which served as further proof that Simone's eclecticism knew no bounds. There are also the kind of stark, moody, spiritually shaded ballads at which she excelled, like "When I Was a Young Girl," "Hush Little Baby," and "Lass of the Low Country," the last of which is as exquisitely sad-yet-beautiful as it gets. Simone had long since departed the Colpix label by the time of the 1966 release of Nina with Strings. That accounts for its pasted-together contents, which combined some previously unreleased material with tracks with strings. This is not the Nina Simone record to start with, but if you like Simone enough to seek out a lot of her albums, there's some worthwhile music here, even if the programming isn't so smooth. Although Simone sings well on every take, the standards are outshone by the earthier tunes, like "Chain Gang (The Work Song)." Certainly the best number is "Blackbird," with its creepy bass and percussive slaps the only accompaniment for Simone's magnificent spiritual vocal, although those apt to be considering buying this in the first place are likely to already have it on Rhino's Anthology: The Colpix Years.
Folksy Nina/Nina with Strings Review
by Richie Unterberger