CDNOW Contributing Writer
Kathy Kosins is a Detroit native who knocked around, writing and singing backup vocals for groups led by Don Was, the J.C. Heard Orchestra, and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, until she broke through with a debut album, All in a Dreams Work. Like this effort, her new disc, Mood Swings, boldly offers a majority of songs written by herself, stressing her hybrid talents for atmosphere and a rock-singer-like individuality and personality -- something like a Janis Joplin whose pipes are not shot. Backed by a cool jazz combo that only occasionally sounds disconnected, Kosins does memorable covers of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," injecting a genuine and essential note of sexuality into the proceedings. In perhaps her most surprising programming choice, she takes the old tune Jackie Gleason is credited with writing, "Melancholy Serenade," and turns its original drooping fifties tempo into a starkly static sound picture of jazzy lounge despair.
Kosins is a challenging artist, who seems determined to give listeners what they don't expect, and the intriguingly ambitious small label Chiaroscuro Jazz has done a fine job of letting her find her public. Surely her range of influences and resolve to be daring makes for a far more lively result than the plastic, retrograde retreads that currently glut the market.