Label: Decca (UMO)
This young singer-songwriter has a fascinating backstory (she was left permanently disabled after surviving a hit-and-run accident), but it's her music that carries the day. Melody Gardot meshes smart folk-pop with beatnik jazz touches that recall early Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones more than Norah Jones. Gardot possesses a good feel for time and space and has a real knack for matching emotion with narrative in her tunes (check out "Some Lessons" and "Goodnite," to name two). This fine debut was self-recorded and picked up by Verve, and it hit No. 2 on the jazz charts.