Thirty-somethings who remember Nikka Costa as the child singer of tunes like "First Love" and "Candy Man" back in the early '80s probably wouldn't recognize the soul-inflected, bluesy sound that's the base of Pebble to a Pearl, her latest CD released on the legendary Stax label. As the daughter of late arranger and producer Don Costa (who led Frank Sinatra's band for several decades), Nikka Costa has enjoyed respectable success in Europe since 2001's Everybody's Got Their Something, her debut grown-up recording (which scored number one on charts across the pond). But for some reason, her career failed to fully ignite Stateside — possibly because the pop music scene here was way too infatuated with the likes of Britney Spears and boy bands. That situation might change with her new disc, which is being promoted via an extended U.S. tour that makes a stop in South Florida on Tuesday. It's a daring album, carefully evoking the soul of Aretha Franklin and her contemporaries without sounding dated. As you can hear on the video for "Stuck to You," she subtly incorporates electronic elements into a tune that could have been a hit ages ago yet somehow does not feel out of place in 2008. If she sounds as good live as she does on record, she might just be this year's big comeback kid.
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