Cyndi Lauper

Memphis Blues

You’ve got to give Cyndi Lauper credit for chutzpah. She is irremediably cute, and the word “cute” isn’t usually associated with the blues, the genre she covers on this album of blues standards. But she acquits herself admirably, with the masterful assistance of such blues stalwarts as Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Ann Peebles and Jonny Lang.

She covers two old Tracy Nelson tunes—“Down So Low,” and “Mother Earth”—that no singer in her right mind would choose to do. Inviting comparison to a voice as powerful as Nelson’s is risky, especially on “Down So Low,” but Ms. Lauper puts on her own display of power, and there are surely music lovers who will be hearing her version of this song without knowing what Ms. Nelson did with it some four decades ago. And she’s equally courageous in covering Robert Johnson’s classic “Crossroads,” turning in a fine take on that quintessential blues number. Musselwhite told me that working with Cyndi Lauper was a delight. “She’s just so real and down-to-earth,” he said. You can hear that on these songs. When she sings “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” she sounds like she was born in the delta, and singing the blues ever since.