JULIA NIXON "Keepin' on Track" Double Dawg

Julia Nixon is a talented storyteller.
Julia Nixon is a talented storyteller. (By Cade Martin)
Friday, November 16, 2007

JULIA NIXON"Keepin' on Track"Double Dawg

THINK IT'S CRIMINAL that a singer as gifted and acclaimed as Julia Nixon is just now releasing her first solo recording? You're not alone.

Many Washingtonians have followed Nixon's career since she began singing at Mr. Henry's in the '80s. Since then she has found success on Broadway (replacing Jennifer Holliday in the original production of "Dreamgirls"), toured and recorded with Julia & Co., and, just a few months ago, received a Helen Hayes Award for her lead role in "Caroline, or Change."

Now, finally, comes "Keepin' on Track," a solo debut that reveals, and celebrates, some of the R&B, jazz and gospel influences that have inspired Nixon's artistry and repertoire. It's no surprise that Nancy Wilson's legacy looms large, and not just when Nixon covers the great vocalist's signature song, "Guess Who I Saw Today." Like Wilson, Nixon is storyteller at heart, drawn to scenarios that pack a dramatic wallop. "Keepin' on Track" certainly has its share of those. Among them are "Till Death Do Us Part," a despairing, self-penned ballad, and the topical "Sirens," riddled with hip-hop beats and the sound of a city in turmoil. Other highlights find Nixon conjuring a sultry mood on "Southern Boy" (complete with a nod to the Peggy Lee hit "Fever") and making entertaining excursions into wah-wah-inflected funk ("Then"), contemporary gospel ("Here Today Gone Tomorrow") and classic Barry White sounds ("Walking in the Rain").

Indeed, Nixon's rich contralto -- by turns sassy, spirited and sensuous -- never fails her en route to a "Dreamgirls"-inspired reprise of "One Night Only." Along the way, a large and seasoned group of musicians that includes Gary and Greg Grainger -- on bass and drums, respectively -- provides colorful support.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre (202-397-7328,http://www.thelincolntheatre.org). Show starts at 8.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company