What makes Dayna Kurtz's new album "Beautiful Yesterday" so inspiring isn't just the vast range of material.

What makes Dayna Kurtz's new album "Beautiful Yesterday" so inspiring isn't just the vast range of material. Nor is it her uncommonly distinctive voice, which cuts straight to the heart with a deep, soulful melancholy. Although she writes some fine songs, her precious gift is how she deftly puts her own stamp on almost anyone else's song. Try "Lost and Looking," a riveting and obscure Sam Cooke tune; Prince's "Joy in Repetition," rendered here like a Kurt Weill lament; Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," sung loose and smart with pal Norah Jones; and Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," which only reinforces the initial impression that she could be Cohen's spiritual daughter. The eyebrow-raiser is "Those Were the Days," the 1968 Mary Hopkin hit that is as appealing and maddening now as it was then, though Kurtz's version is closer to the tune's dark Eastern European roots. This New Jersey native has been bubbling under in Europe. With "Beautiful Yesterday," she might gain more significant attention in the United States.—WR

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