Personnel: Marisa Kuney , Songa Lee (violin); Tim Loo (cello); Aaron Redfield (drums); Kevin Ball (triangle).
Audio Mixer: Bob Clearmountain.
Recording information: Clear Lake Studios; Henson Studios; The Apogee Studio.
Nikka Costa took a stab at electropop crossover at the dawn of the 2010s but it didn't click. Instead of battling trends, she took some time to raise a family and then returned in 2008 with Nikka & Strings. Perhaps the title is a nod to Sinatra & Strings, the 1962 LP that was the first time the Chairman of the Board worked with Nikka's father, Don Costa, but it's also a statement of fact: this record finds the singer changing course and recording with a small combo supplemented by strings. Although this form is familiar through classic vocal pop, Nikka & Strings isn't a walk through the Great American Songbook. Costa concentrates on rock & roll-era standards, covering everything from Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" to Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U," adding a couple of originals and pop standards to the mix. The common thread tying these tunes together is that they provide a platform for Costa's vocal acrobatics, none of which have diminished during her hiatus. Costa is able to show off every inch of her range through these 11 songs, and that concentrated dose of prowess is what truly distinguishes Nikka & Strings: if you've ever wanted just to hear Costa sing, this is the record for you. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine