Some of Big Star founder Alex Chilton’s final recordings are part of singer Cristina Black’s new release, The Dirty Sessions. Chilton plays bass on the new EP, which was recorded last September in Black’s former hometown of New Orleans (where Chilton lived until his death last month). The album was produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman and features Black on ukulele and lead vocals. Alex McMurray (guitar) and Brian Coogan (keys) also contribute to the record.
“I first attempted songwriting from a puddle of mud,” Black writes in her blog. “I’d fallen there on the sidelines of a New Orleans parade in 2006, during the first Mardi Gras after Hurricane Katrina busted up the city. I remember thinking if I just had something to hold on to, a stick or something, maybe I could pull myself up out of that mess. That metaphor became the first line and theme for ‘All I Want,’ and stayed with me for months after I returned to New York City, my home since 2004. The song, by then fully formed, was playing over and over in my head, its aching, minor-key melody pushing me through the confusion of post-Katrina life.
“That tune and the rest of them found their way out of me through a hundred-dollar baritone ukulele, which I took up later that same year, inspired and schooled by Brooklyn singer-songwriter Michael Leviton,” she continues. “I’d been a musician all my life. I’d studied classical piano, harp and voice as a child and made my living as a professional music critic for about a decade. But it was only when I learned to serenade my friends on that little axe that I realized my own melodies were valid, and so were my thoughts on things like love, money, class, death and disaster. Finally, I merged the two, and that’s why The Ditty Sessions exists.”