If, during the first half of this decade, you happened into Toronto’s slightly bedraggled, wonderfully bohemian Rex Hotel on a Friday night, you were as likely to have Melissa Stylianou serve you your pint of Molson’s as you were to hear her blend of Bjork, Cole Porter, Tom Waits and original tunes on the Rex’s tiny stage.
What you would have heard might have struck you as a little bit Joni Mitchell and a little bit Diana Krall, with rich veins of Ann Hampton Callaway warmth and Patricia Barber cool. In other words, a rather heady cocktail which, now that Stylianou has moved to New York in the hope of expanding her considerable fan base beyond Canada, continues to pour forth on the first of her albums widely available stateside.
Such varied delights as a funkified “Them There Eyes,” an exotically sultry “All of You” and a gorgeously dreamy “That Ole Devil Called Love” make her a standards-bearer worth watching. But it is Stylianou’s artfully imagined originals, ranging from the down-home zest of “Mary’s in the Tub” to the emotional wreckage of the title track, that shift her from engaging to captivating.