Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina
A lot of our more established cabaret artists could learn a thing or two from watching Grammy Award-nominated country singer Jo Dee Messina in her thoroughly engaging new show Unmistakable at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency. Rarely has this 10-year-old venue felt more like someone's living room, and that's really what being in an intimate club should be about.

In large part, that's because the clearly free-spirited Messina doesn't play by the genre's conventions. (Hell, there's not even an encore!) She happily interacts with the crowd, taking random questions from the audience and answering them honestly and fortrightly. (By the way, James Taylor, if you're reading, Messina wants to do a Christmas show with you!)

Messina also encourages requests, which is something many performers seem afraid to do. Accordingly, there is no definite set list, but it's no surprise Messina fits in many of her hits -- requested or otherwise -- including "Bye Bye," "Lesson in Leavin'," Because You Love Me," and "My Give A Damn's Busted."

While many of her signature tunes deal with failed love affairs, the strong-voiced Messina rarely shows any bitterness. Her tone is more of a realist, ready to accept the past and move on to the future. That outlook is reinforced in a stirring rendition of the Bonnie Raitt classic "I Can't Make You Love Me (If You Don't)," one of the few covers she performs.

Meanwhile, "That's God," a tune she wrote upon a visit to Canada during a difficult moment in her career, is genuinely moving. And a story about how she chose not to reference 9-11 in the video for her hit "Bring On the Rain," although it was shot just days after the Twin Towers fell, shows the singer's character. By evening's end, even someone seeing or hearing Jo Dee Messina for the first time feels they've gotten to know her.