Standard Time

Singer's CD of WWII-era favorites doesn't have that musty smell.

Cleveland art
On her latest album, Sing You Sinners, Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Erin McKeown goes back. Way back. The CD features a dozen Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songs written between the 1930s and ’50s. “There are many reasons you make a record,” she says. “You make a record because it documents a live thing. You make a record because you’ve got something new. And you make a record because you’ve got something to sell. I wanted to make a record because I liked the songs.”

But Sing You Sinners isn’t like Rod Stewart’s recent albums, where well-known standards sound pretty much like the way you’ve heard them hundreds of times before. Most of the tracks on McKeown’s project are little-known nuggets composed by some of the era’s biggest names (like Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter). McKeown chose them because of their obscurity. “If a song filled up my computer screen when I [searched] for it on iTunes, I wouldn’t cover it,” she says. “It’s a good thing that I dug deep because I found some really cool stuff in the corners.” Even the songs you probably are familiar with -- like “Get Happy,” made famous by Judy Garland -- take on a different vibe here. Many could easily be mistaken for a McKeown original. “I wanted to find songs I could play my way,” she says. “These songs [connected] technically and emotionally.” McKeown says this is it for the oldies. She doesn’t plan to milk the concept for another five years. She says Sing You Sinners was intended as a one-shot CD to give her a much-needed break from the writing-recording-touring grind that’s consumed the past 10 years of her life. “Creating music that’s entirely my own gets exhausting,” she says. “I feel rejuvenated now.”
Fri., June 8, 8:30 p.m.

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