Nikka Costa

Nimble-tongued Nikka Costa's new Stax release, Pebble to a Pearl, due on October 14, elaborates on Costa's previous excursions, making promises—funky, soulful promises—about love and sex and music. But it's Costa's giant voice, all out of proportion to her diminutive stature, that's led to the cruising altitude of her career—which, if there were a righteous funk/soul god, would be stratospheric.

Indeed, if that were the case, Costa's 2001 album, Everybody Got Their Something, and its hit title track would have planted a flag more solidly in the stinky firmament of American pop radio. Then, her 2005 release, can'tneverdidnothin', would have owned the entire commercial broadcast spectrum outright.

Setting off her voice like a precious jewel, her songs favor infectious grooves and classic funk arrangements of horns, Hammond B3 organs and strong bass riffs, but at a more fashion-forward tilt than the more overtly retro stylings of poor Amy Winehouse.

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Chris Packham is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.