Unlike Nancy’s steamy mid-’90s comeback effort (the overwrought One More Time album plus that spread in Playboy), you’ll find no “Boots”-styled sex-kitten fantasies this time around. Perhaps noting her old flame/collaborator Lee Hazelwood’s latter-day hip cachet, she’s aiming squarely at the youth market via collaborations with contemporary hipsters ranging from U2 and Calexico to Jon Spencer and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker.
For the most part, Nancy Sinatra holds up, although it has its flaws. The vocal duet with Spencer, “Ain’t No Easy Way” is a total mismatch (imagine Britney Spears and Elvis covering “Jackson”), while “Mama’s Boy,” a creepy slice of avant-garde cabaret featuring Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, is a droning, meandering affair only made messier by Sinatra’s tuneless, half-recited vocals. Intriguingly, though, the best number recalls her salad days with Hazelwood. Calexico’s “Burnin’ Down The Spark” is a windswept mariachi-flavored rocker with lonesome pedal steel, twangy guitar and stirring string charts. Knowing that the tune is about papa Frank gives it additional emotional heft: When Sinatra lingers ever so subtly, in that husky, ambered voice of hers and with just a touch of weariness drifting in, on the lines, “Eyes of shining blue/ All these memories/ Of you come to haunt me,” you can’t help but feel haunted too.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.