Alex McMurray / Cristina Black
If Alex McMurray's songwriting seems a bit dour at times--okay, most of the time--well then that's totally intentional. "Like Blanche DuBois in Streetcar," he says, "I find sorrow to be quite a beautiful emotion. Loneliness can be nice." And he'd know. A New Orleans fixture since the '80s, the guitar slinger is now widely recognized as the embodiment of the downtown New Orleans lifestyle: sketchy bars, cracked sidewalks, fallen-down houses, tattered hearts, broken spirits, discarded chicken bones. He's often compared to Tom Waits; they both have whiskey-throated voices and share a curious ability to find inspiration in the degenerate, not to mention an obsession with the Ninth Ward. Except McMurray actually lives there.
“The most talented songwriter in New Orleans.” -Antigravity
“Tom Waits-ian pathos cut with a Big Easy sweetener.” -Nola.com
“One of the best young songwriters in the country.” -Gambit Weekly
“He sees things we all see, but shows them in a new light.” -GoNola.com
“One of the best songwriters working today.” -OffBeat
Often compared to Nico and Fiona Apple for her smoke-and-honey character voice, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Cristina Black maintains a cabaret-like propriety while drawing on the curious looseness of her former home, New Orleans. A classically trained harpist and pianist from age 4, Black turned to pop songwriting more recently when she took up baritone ukulele and began crafting uncommon confessional songs about things like love, money, death and disaster. Her debut album, The Ditty Sessions, is the result of a magical collaboration with an all-star Big Easy backing band that included Alex McMurray on guitar, Brian Coogan on keys and the late Alex Chilton (of Big Star fame) on bass. Galactic’s Ben Ellman oversaw the sessions at his own Number C studio in Uptown New Orleans. 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 the fan favorite “Drunk Rich People,” which was recently featured on NBC’s prime time hit Parenthood. Live, Black hops from uke to piano, performing with her New York-based band.