“Model-turned-singer” became a far less lamentable tagline this spring with the release of The Ghost Who Walks, Karen Elson’s first album. The British catwalker, who’s strutted for such top designers as Marc Jacobs, Versace, and Chanel, revealed alluring chamber-pop and bluegrass chops and a low, wraithlike alto on her debut; it was a pleasant surprise, and one immediately snatched back by the fashion community. (The title track, a Nancy Sinatra-esque strutter, was choreographed into numerous New York Fashion Week runways shows) That Ghost was produced by her husband, Jack White, certainly didn’t hurt, either; the rich orchestration recalled Van Lear Rose, his 2004 effort with Loretta Lynn, and the quick blips of cheeky growling were akin to his own irascible group the Dead Weather.
Elson hasn’t been through our ‘hood since summer, when she participated in the shall-we-say-questionably conceived Williamsburg Waterfront concert series; happily, she announced a few new dates yesterday. She’ll perform at the Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side on Monday, October 18 (an impeccable room for singer-songwriters) and at the regal Beacon Theatre on Wednesday, October 20 as part of T Bone Burnett’s "The Speaking Clock Revue," a multi-artist stage show that also features Elton John & Leon Russell, Elvis Costello, Neko Case, and more.
Elson’s music career has built slowly and steadily over the past decade; it’s been enough to establish her as “the hipster model,” as some sartorially-inclined friends of ours insists on cribbing her. (We’ll reserve our judgment on that.) She is a founding member and regular performer the Citizens Band, a local cabaret troupe that covers Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground, and Marlene Dietrich ditties and performs regularly at the terminally chic Deitch Gallery. She also lent backing vocals to a remix of Robert Plant’s “Last Time I Saw Her” in 2003 and dueted with Cat Power on a tense, Sapphic cover of “I Love You (Me Either”) for the 2006 Serge Gainsbourg tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited.
Perhaps most crucially, she also once stole Christina Hendricks’ mojo. Well, depending on whom you ask.