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Check Ahead: Meshell Ndegeocello, "Pour Une Âme Souveraine"

Tuesday, October 02, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Meshell Ndegeocello (Charlie Gross)

In 2003, Grammy-nominated bassist and vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello contributed a track to the tribute album Just Because I'm A Woman: Songs Of Dolly Parton. Under her direction, "Two Doors Down" -- an upbeat rebound anthem from the blonde and bedazzled "Queen of Country Music" -- was transformed into a funky, gooey and gender-ambiguous track as seductive as Parton's version is chipper.

Nearly ten years later, Ndegeocello has again focused her efforts on paying tribute to a master of genre; this time, to the woman who became known as the "High Priestess of Soul." Pour une Âme Souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone is a 14-track homage to the music of the iconic singer-songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist, who died in 2003 at the age of 70.

Ndegeocello was inspired to record after performing a Nina Simone tribute concert in Harlem earlier this year. The album spans Simone's career from the late 1950s to the early '70s and features interpretations of some of her most well-known songs including a bass-heavy version of the hit "Feeling Good" and an electric, crunchy, and sweetly-sung take on the song "Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood." There are also a few deeper cuts like the 1966 Simone original "Four Women."

Pour une Âme Souveraine is punctuated by visits from guests like gospel singer Lizz Wright, singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon, and roots musician Valerie June -- whose Tennessee-inflected vocals on "Be My Husband" are a highlight.

An upcoming biopic about Nina Simone created controversy in recent months after it was announced that the Hollywood-thin and fairer-skinned actress Zoe Saldana would be playing the title role. As the debate continues about how to properly represent such a revered cultural figure on screen, Ndegeocello's Pour une Âme Souveraine offers honest and innovative reflection upon the sound that Simone left behind.

Pour une Âme Souveraine, from Meshell Ndegeocello, is out on Tuesday, October 9. Audio is no longer available for this feature.

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