The Ditty Sessions EP is the result of a magical collaboration between Los Angeles singer-songwriter Cristina Black’s confessional songwriting and an all-star New Orleans backing band. Often compared to Nico and Joni Mitchell for her smoke-and-honey character voice, Black maintains a cabaret-like propriety while drawing on the curious looseness of the Big Easy, her former home. Standout track “Purple Houses” describes the anxiety of watching Hurricane Katrina swirl towards the Gulf Coast. The set also addresses drug addiction on “These Days”, infidelity on “All I Want” and the plight of the wealthy on “Drunk Rich People,” which was recently featured on NBC’s prime time hit Parenthood.
A classically trained harpist and pianist, Black turned to pop songwriting more recently while living in Brooklyn, New York. “I’m really only interested in magical instruments,” says Black. “But I wanted to play something small and simple for once.” Bruised from the events of Katrina and their collateral damage, she began to channel the experience of loss into her own compositions. “The horror of that ordeal created a hole in my life so deep I had no choice but to sing my way out of it,” Black explains. She conceived her first song after falling in a puddle of mud on parade sidelines during Mardi Gras. “I remember thinking if I just had something to hold on to, a stick or something, maybe I could pull myself up out of that mess,” she recalls. That metaphor became the first line and theme for “All I Want,” its aching, minor-key melody pushing her through the emotional confusion of post-Katrina life.
Soon, Black found herself back in New Orleans recording at Number C Studios, the home base of venerable funk band Galactic. With saxophonist-producer Ben Ellman at the console, the sessions were scheduled around the recording of the Grammy-nominated Trombone Shorty album Backatown. Black asked old friends Alex McMurray (guitar), Brian Coogan (piano, Wurlitzer, B3) and Alex Chilton (bass) to back her. “Alex Chilton was the last piece to fall into place,” she recalls. “I needed a bass player in New Orleans who really knew pop music and he was the obvious choice.” Chilton passed away suddenly a few months later. The Ditty Sessions were the rock legend’s final studio recordings.
Black currently resides in Los Angeles, where she continues to perform and record with her West Coast band.
Praise for The Ditty Sessions:
Soft jams the likes of which we’re definitely not treated to everyday. Black is a talent in her own right. --The Fader
Black’s catchy songs and gorgeous voice are not overshadowed by her estimable backing band. --TwentyFourBit
released April 12, 2010
Cristina Black, vocals, ukulele
Alex McMurray, guitar
Brian Coogan, piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3
Alex Chilton, bass
produced by Cristina Black
recorded by Ben Ellman at Number C Studios, New Orleans
Often compared to Nico and Fiona Apple for her dour-pretty character voice, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Cristina Black maintains a cabaret-like propriety while drawing on the curious looseness of her former home, New Orleans.