The Leftover Cuties, in town from Los Angeles, performed an intimate set at The Living Room on Tuesday, mixing classic swing and pop with modern songwriting. It felt like you had been transported to a mid-century smoky lounge, with Shirli McAllen's sensual voice filling the room and hot piano licks keeping you dancing in your seat. (Of course, this was Brooklyn, so no one was smoking and everyone had probably just finished their kale.) McAllen sings like she grew up living and breathing classic American music, even though (spoiler alert) English is actually her second language. Her ukulele playing complimented her voice perfectly, fitting like a glove into the Leftover Cuties sound.
With Austin Nicholsen (bass) and Stuart Johnson (drums) holding down the rhythm section, the band swung all night. Nicholen’s “upright banjo bass” gave the band a unique sound and aesthetic, but Johnson’s throwback drum was like something out of the world’s coolest 1920’s New Orleans swing band. Their super-tight feel laid down a blanket of groove while Mike Bolger provided the hot jazz flavor on piano and trumpet. Bolger is reminiscent of an early days piano man, right at home on either a stage or a crowded basement.
The true measure of a great song is how quickly and firmly it gets stuck in your head, which was certainly true of “Sunnyside,” which I'll be humming to myself for awhile. On the classic “You Are My Sunshine," the heavy minor feel captured the tragic essence of one of America’s most classic love songs, that’s actually all about heartbreak and loneliness.
The Leftover Cuties have a few more dates left in the Northeast!