Sweet and Strangly

NIKI SMART
UNTETHERED
(EIGHT-TRACK SELF-RELEASED CD)

For someone we've never heard of—and hey, shame on us—Newport Beach singer/songwriter Niki Smart sure has been around. Born in Scotland, raised in South Africa, she has loads of songwriting and performance awards, commercial jingles, the usual glut of Coach House/Galaxy Concert Theatre opening gigs, a tune played on that evil she-beast Dr. Laura's radio show (ewww!) and a bunch of other credits. We like her because she seems to change modes with each song—when the pretty acoustic guitars start off the lead cut, "Water's Edge," you think you can peg her as just another hypersensitive girl singer (the lyrics are all about human bondage—and not the fun kind, either). But then the title track kicks in, a rapturous, gritty tune about the joy of emancipation she feels after ditching someone we'll guess is a low-down dirty dog of a good-for-zilch man—we've been there, sister! It's terrifyingly good, a perfect meshing of Smart's summery, sweet-and-sour/tough-and-tender voice that tumbles over loud, strangly guitars and skull-spanking drum rolls, shying away from anything remotely wimpy. There are several other choice cuts here, too, which makes us wonder where she has been hiding herself all this time. We also got a kick out of her liner notes, where she says that in her perfect world, "everybody would use their turn signals, tailgating would not exist, and people would have patience when driving." Yo, Niki—we just got back from Georgia, and could we tell you some bad-driving stories. . . .

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Contact: www.nikismart.com; nikismart@yahoo.com.

Niki Smart performs at Borders Books & Music, 1890 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 631-8661. Sat., 8-10 p.m.
 
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