It's a voice that sounds ages old, a deep undulation from an ancient bayou. Her songs are stories at once universal, yet deeply personal. When Nina Simone (1933-2003) tells you, "my back is strong / strong enough to take the pain / inflicted again and again," in the touchstone track Four Women (click this link to hear the song now), it is with tremendous, unarticulated context -- a single page out of a volume on America's penchant for violence -- that gives her words the power to silence a room, to make you stop for a moment and admire the depth of expression that this artist wields.
Last year, RCA/Legacy released To Be Free, a 3-CD compilation of Simone's work, which best serves as an introduction to the singer's unparalleled musical style. For the seasoned fans of her music, this album also contains live recordings from club shows during the late 60s and a 23-minute DVD of a television special she did in 1970.
Because her delivery is both deep and piercing, and her musical style blends folk, soul, jazz, and blues on nearly every recorded track, Simone has few contemporaries; that said, newcomer indie artist Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons has a strikingly similar, fault-line shaking vibrato, and Andrew Bird -- who plays the Michigan Theater tonight -- often crosses genre lines in his music. Check out all of these artists from the AADL's extensive music collection today.