Nancy Sinatra 

Nancy Sinatra

Though she was hardly an "organic" phenomenon -- cult figure-to-be Lee Hazlewood was her Phil Spector and Svengali -- Nancy Sinatra was the first '60s "tuff chick," with her femme fatale hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" preceding Janis Joplin by a good few years. Point of fact: Both Madonna and the Raveonettes point to Ms. Nancy as an inspiration. And while the late '60s and '70s swept her aside -- no chart appearances since 1968, and no recordings since 1971 -- her daughters are grown now, and Ol' Blue Eyes' daughter can get the same career recharge Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn enjoyed, via a set of admiring youngsters, in this case Morrissey, Pete Yorn, Jim O'Rourke, and members of Pulp, among others.

At risk of damning with faint praise, Nancy Sinatra is for the most part a very fine comeback. Her slightly husky, innocence-lost voice (I came to realize Deborah Harry got her style here) is not only intact, but age has added an aspect of genuine, worldly-wise insight while avoiding sounding blasé. Sinatra is a perfect fit with the twanging, mariachi-tinged Western noir of Calexico, who contribute and play on "Burnin' Down the Spark." "Baby's Coming Back to Me," written by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, is an existentialist slice of pedal-steel-guitar-laden country drama, recalling the sublimely pensive -- and slightly creepy -- songcraft of Hazlewood with a magnetic chorus you'll be hearing when you're trying to sleep. Elsewhere, while Morrissey's "Let Me Kiss You" might sound sarcastic sung by the author (he sings backup here), Sinatra transforms it into harrowing, cinematic high drama.

A couple of tracks don't work: "Ain't No Easy Way," a "sassy" duet with the Blues Explosion's Jon Spencer, is awkwardly yee-haw heavy-handed, and Thurston Moore's "Momma's Boy" is a Sonic Youth castoff that's as tuneless and dissonant-for-its-own-sake as that band at its worst. Happily, the rest is low-key, insidiously melodious folk-rock with some mild swirling psychedelic overtones, all sung with a dignified, slightly haunted allure.


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