Sandwiched between a Tuesday-night appearance on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and tonight’s scheduled performance on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Priscilla Ahn charmed an intimate gathering at the storied Village recording studio in West Los Angeles on Wednesday night in support of her second release on Blue Note, “When You Grow Up.”
Possessed with a girlish giggle and an angelic voice, Ahn is cut from a decidedly different cloth from many of today’s vampish up-and-comers — all homespun innocence and emo sensitivity. At one point she complained that the black tea she was drinking had given her “cotton mouth,” and was so moved by the beauty of the dancer she accompanied an “Stars” that “she wanted to cry.”
That both her low-tech album and live performance rely on good, old-fashioned instrumentation (acoustic guitar, simple drum kit, a mellotron here and an auto harp there) is a tribute to the kind of down-to-earth musicianship that is enjoying a healthy resurgence among her twentysometing peers.
Some of the material on “When You Grow Up,” such as the title tune and “Ooh La La,” both of which she performed on Wednesday, might be too precious by half, but her pristine, elastic vocals — somewhat reminiscent of the Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins’ whispery purr and Aimee Mann’s unadorned delivery — underscore the value of elocution in conveying a story clearly combined with a dramatic pitch that is at once ethereal and conversational.
One song on the new album, “One Day I Will Do,” conveys the everyday longing for love and self-fulfilment that we all share with such heartbreaking beauty that it puts a lump in your throat.