I've been a Nina Simone fan for a long time now. I'm not ashamed to say that I first noticed her in this Six Feet Under promo (the best tv show there ever was) and thought "WHO ON EARTH WAS THAT???" That cadence (the bit at the end) is the most amazing few seconds of deep feeling vocal virtuosity I have ever heard. I still rewind it to hear it again and again.
Nina Simone was an African-American woman who was way before her time and never got the recognition that she should have. I think this just makes her music more attractive to audiences and artists today. She was more edgy than Carole King, Judy Collins and Carly Simon put together. She was also socially relevant in her thematic material and as a classically trained pianist, she brought an elegance not really ever heard in blues or soul.
Please watch her performance of "Be My Husband" at the Harlem Festival in 1969. Check out here amazing head-dress hairdo and her "percussion section." Please also take note of the last couple verses, you know, the ones that mentions "cooking and sewing", "meanest man I've ever seen" and "sudden death" (you can even her the audience show surprise).
This is typical Nina: the deepest passion and pain all rolled up into one.
Now, this is Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond. I've heard about here (she's performed at South by Southwest for the last few years), but not taken the time to really listen until friend played her for me last weekend while packing books for a move. I think I was seeing Ozomatli at the Fillmore the same night she performed in San Francisco. Too bad for me.
New York based Shara is a classically trained vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She has studied string quartet arranging and has just an adorable presence (She's tiny!) and funky look.
Watch HER cover of "Be My Husband." Shara, as you might notice, has changed up the last couple verses making it a little less of a downer. (Check out HER hairdo!)
Now let me throw an original at you. This is a live performance of "My Brightest Star." Just Shara and her guitar. (The open tuning gives the guitar that moody feel.)
If you're intrigued by her voice, check a clip of her singing Whitney Houston's/Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" at Karaoke (the dude is her husband, and no, he's not a giant, she's just tiny). And a funky little interview clip.
I've also added Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" and some other of Shara's tunes to my playlist.