REVIEW: Claudia Nygaard’s “Lucky Girl” Tells Stories Charlie Parker Would Love


They say jazz great Charlie Parker would go to a saloon, order drinks, then go to the jukebox to punch in country songs. A peer once asked, “why do you always play these silly songs?” Parker said, “listen to the stories man, it’s all about the stories.”

Claudia Nygaard tells stories that Parker would probably love. I’m all about originality & Nygaard has it. A sprinkle of “spirits” of others is there but just a sprinkle. She has her own musical dynamic — sweet & tart.

Ms. Nygaard has a Jody Miller (“Silver Threads & Golden Needles”) deep voice with a Lucinda Williams edge. The opener to her 3rd LP – 14-track Oct. release is the title track: Lucky Girl, (Bet the Ranch Records).

From the start, her voice grabs you by the collar with her deep Bobbie Gentry voice & storytelling excellence. She takes her lyrical complaints, turns it all into a rollicking uplifting tune. Eamon McLaughlin’s fiddle sweeps into “Like a Moth to a Flame,” & Claudia’s now sensitive voice does the rest. No sugar-coat. No Taylor Swift. She puts the roots & rural proof in the pudding in each song.

Her band: Evan Hutchings & Grammy-nominated producer Neilson Hubbard (drums & garbage can), Dean Marold (bass), Juan Solorzano (guitar & lap steel), Kris Donegan (lead guitar), Claudia (acoustic guitar & ukulele).

The kick in the head song is “Me Too,” with lines like “No, it’s not how I behave, Leaning on your headstone, and pissing on your grave.” Wow… do you think she’s angry? Then, brilliantly, from a sarcastic song to the beautiful “Oklahoma.” Claudia is pensive & Reba McIntyre should cover this since she’s from Oklahoma. Nygaard is careful with her choice of words & it shows — almost Leonard Cohen-country perfect with her stories. She manages to take basic country themes & weave a different thread through each.

The clever “Codependent’s National Anthem,” is cool. Some are heart-wrenching (“I Wonder”). But that’s what country music is about. For the guys, she offers humorously “Ol’ Buick.” Her vocal inflections, tone & approach is exceptional & I’m not a big country fan. “I love you like an ol’ Buick.” Nice. Even The Eagles could cover this.

Claudia skims jazz on “Tumbling Down.” Easy to hear why Charlie Parker would like this. The lap steel replaced by a sax. Yes. Lines like: “We’ve got eight o’clock reservations you know…” typical jazz.

“Or Not,” is Lucinda Williams-like. Claudia’s hot density lyric only suggests it. There’s no angst, but there is an attitude. Lots of attitude.

“What I Don’t Like About You,” is a soulful, jazzy vocals. It touches gently on Billie Holiday’s phrasing. If Billie sang country she’d be a Claudia. Superb. Maybe Mr. Parker’s right.

“Stitches,” is a funny but stabbing in a Roger Miller mold. “The Hero” radiates warmth & sadness in a John Prine style. If romantic – “A Little Embarrassed,” will tear you up as a great country song should.

I don’t have a top 10 year-end list, but this CD would be top 5. Claudia is the biggest pastry in the box. A delight.

And there’s a lyric insert. The 55-minute CD: available at Amazon and here:

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