Belinda Underwood

Uncurling

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The debut album from Belinda Underwood, a Portland-based bassist-cum-vocalist, is a surprisingly excellent start, especially for what's essentially an independent release. Underwood exudes authenticity here, moving between upright bass and vocals (and a stretch on the baritone ukulele for good measure). She's slinky and sultry without diving into overblown Eartha Kitt-esque aesthetics. Her voice is breathy, and while her phrasing seems a little slow at times, it's generally used to draw you into the next notes. Her bass playing is similar in its aesthetic, though with a different pitch and timbre. The key to this album is Underwood's choices of pieces -- a half-dozen standards that she re-creates in her own style, and a half-dozen originals that show off her poetry and composition abilities. "World Peace Blues" shows off her scatting abilities at the same time as her apparent love for Marvin Gaye. "Say My Name" shows off a more melodic instrumental side with the ukulele put beside her smoky rendition of a love song. The starting track, "Born to Be Blue," is an old one, but she can put the pathos into it just as well as the old Velvet Fog could. This one might take a little effort to find, but it'll pay dividends once you do.

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