West Coast singer-songwriter hipster Mark Winkler, who produced Lauren White’s latest, has long maintained a predilection for vintage L.A. themes, primarily the cool California sound of the 1950s and ‘60s. Here he turns up the heat and turns back the clock, rewinding a decade or so to the era of classic film noir.
White, an Angeleno by choice (she was born and raised in New York and began her career in East Coast musical theater), is an ideal choice for Winkler’s judiciously curated playlist. Both for her innate sultriness and her acting chops, essential to tunes intended to propel dark, twisted narratives. Backed by a sinewy, red-blooded rhythm section – pianist Mitchel Forman, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr. – and various guests (including a lush string quartet anchored by violinist Lisa Liu), White skillfully navigates appropriately crepuscular arrangements by award-winning theater and film composer Kathryn Bostic.
The moody playlist travels from the shadowy desire of “Laura” and chill despair “I’d Rather Have the Blues” (introduced by Nat King Cole in Kiss Me Deadly) to the fiery swells of “Amado Mio” (from Gilda) and saucy pluck of “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’” (from Ellington’s score for Anatomy of a Murder). Winkler adds one original, “When All the Lights in the Sign Worked,” which serves as a smart, tart opener for the eight vintage tracks that follow.