"SK Final" - Ndidi Onukwulu
Happy-sounding blues, with horn charts, "SK Final" hides its musical inventiveness beneath a brassy, old-fashioned vibe. Onukwulu is a British Columbia native born to Nigerian parents, and in her songs seeks to combine blues, jazz, and African music. Check out, for instance, how the song starts: those reverberant drum beats are not directly blues-based, but evoke another continent's rhythms. When Onukwulu starts singing, she's accompanied further by an acoustic rhythm guitar, softly marking the beat as she sings off of it, while an electric guitar soon begins to supply gentle flourishes that, again, bring a world-music flair to the musical landscape.
In the end, however, "SK Final" is dominated by pretty much two things: Onukwulu's vibrant alto, with its fleeting vibrato, and those snappy horns, which kick in right before the chorus. While providing traditional horn-chart-y punctuation to the lyrics, the horns also offer a mellower sort of instrumental aside (1:07, for example; even better, 1:39) that to my ears gives them a sneaky and enticing spirit, even when finishing the song off in full rave-up mode, as Onukwulu assures us, with frisky defiance, that she's not going to cry over you again. Like I said, happy blues.
"SK Final" is the lead track on Onukwulu's second CD, The Contradictor, released this week on the Vancouver-based label Jericho Beach Music.