Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day [Verve, 2009]
Though I wish I believed McKay would have discovered Day if the 87-year-old box office queen hadn't devoted half her adult life to animal rights, the spritz, groove, sweetness and delight of this project not only raise Day from the shallow grave of the camp canon but give McKay a chance to grow up without going all sententious or stodgy. If by some mischance she's contracted the writer's block that can afflict kids who've spent years unable to staunch the river of new songs within--the only original is one of the few forgettables--then McKay has a future as an interpreter. At first the jazzy lightness of her arrangements seems like a distortion. But when you compare Day's "Crazy Rhythm" or "Do Do Do"--even the radio transcription of "Sentimental Journey" or a "Wonderful Guy" so much less brassy than Mary Martin's--you remember that like every Cincinnati girl of her era Day grew up with swing and probably resented the orchestral overkill she was saddled with. McKay's covers are jazzier and kookier than anything Day would have dared, or wanted. But to borrow language she's used for Day, they're "uncluttered, sensual and free, driven by an irrepressible will to live." A