What does one make of Nellie McKay? She is, simply, brilliant, intensely independent, and truly satisfying as an entertainer. Hers was a "don't miss" night when she first appeared at The Shedd in 2007, she was just as brilliant (and whacky) in her second appearance here in 2010, and her 2011 "musical noire", I Want To Live was just from another world.
Nellie returns to the Jaqua Concert Hall on October 10th for a solo show: Nellie, piano, ukelele. As we always say, our responsibility is to get Nellie McKay to Eugene as often as we can. Your responsibility to yourself is to come.
“Ms. McKay isn’t just eclectic. She is especially fond of styles currently considered un-hip, especially if they can hold plenty of lyrics, like cabaret patter songs. She rarely passes up a chance to be clever. “The Dog Song,” about adopting a pet from a pound, concludes, “That’s what it’s all a-bow-wow-wow-wowt.” And she doesn’t shy away from technical challenges. Songs from her latest album, Obligatory Villagers, are so crammed with ideas that they sometimes turn into mini-suites. Alone at the piano, she accompanied herself with elaborate counterpoint while breezing through melodies that leaped all over the place.” — Joe Pareles, The New York Times (October 2007)
"Nellie McKay's Normal As Blueberry Pie is the fourth album of a contentious career that has also included an award-winning role in Brecht-Weill's Threepenny Opera and much outspoken animal-welfare activism, a cause she shares with Doris Day. McKay is a feminist who isn't shy about using that particular F-word, a wisenheimer who's done stand-up, a prima donna who fought her label to squeeze 23 new songs onto a CD instead of just 16. In 2005, I saw her perform half a dozen non-English titles she'd composed, including "Me Gusta Manana," about trying to go vegan in Spain. So it seems strange that her first album in two years comprises 12 Doris Day covers plus one original, and that it's jazzier than either her history or Day's would lead listeners to expect. But while Normal As Blueberry Pie wouldn't be a Nellie McKay album if it weren't a little kooky, McKay's arrangements find a graceful midpoint between her postmodern cabaret and Day's popped-up big-band singer with chops for miles. It emphasizes the purity McKay's voice shares with Day's. It, too, is uncluttered, sensual and free." – Robert Christgau, NPR All Things Considered, 2009
"Home Sweet Mobile Home is seriously fun and funny. McKay’s musical influences are all over the place, from reggae and ‘50s doo-wop to Broadway and swinging jazz to contemporary coffee house and funky New Orleans to modern rock and Caribbean styles, and everything in between. The bricolage effect removes the music from any one context into the realm of planet Nellie. She borrows from a diversity of genres to create pastiches that knowingly mock cultural and political conventions that value compliance and consistency over creativity. McKay zaps the consumerist cool kids and hipsters of the 21st century and employs humor to direct her barbs deeply into her targets: from the current state of liberty in the world to equality between the sexes, to the food we eat, to the homes we live in, and much, much more in a manner that often disguises the seriousness and depth of her genius. –" Steven Horowitz, Pop Matters, September 2010
“A brilliant, zany film-noir musical biography of Barbara Graham, a convicted murderer who was the third woman to die in the gas chamber in California,… I Want to Live! combines Ms. McKay’s virtually unlimited gifts as a singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, ukulele player, mimic, satirist and comedian into a show that is much deeper than its surface might suggest.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times (March 2011)
“I recently saw Nellie McKay, who does this cabaret show about a woman on death row. All her songs are standards or vaguely wacky or lighthearted, but the theme was death. Musically, everything was still appropriate to the cabaret setting, but the content just seemed wrong. It was amazing how she turned the expectations upside down.” David Byrne, Pitchfork (June 2011)