Avery Sunshine Credit: Derek Blanks

Some neosoul artists focus on torch songs and heartbreak, but as her name suggests, pianist and singer Avery Sunshine (aka Denise Nicole White) sticks to the brighter side of the genre. Working with guitarist and arranger Dana Johnson (who’s also her husband), Sunshine mixes old-school R&B grooves, gentle funk, and jazzy gospel vocals on flirtatiously humorous songs of requited love. The couple’s best-known track, 2005’s “Stalker,” is typical of their good-natured approach to romantic desperation, but they deviate from their usual fare with the song’s disco-fied house beat. Their characteristic style is perhaps best exemplified by the rollicking retro-soul rave-up “Used Car,” from 2017’s Twenty Sixty Four (Bigshine/Shanachie): the rhythm section locks into a groove, Johnson plays stinging, twangy guitar lines, and White wails, growls, yodels, and winks her way through double entendres with such cheer that they barely even sound dirty. “Come Do Nothing” (from the same album) ends with a sweetly nervous answering-machine message as the narrator tries to ask her ex, who’s already moved on, over for a date—attempting to lure him with homemade gumbo rather than explicitly saying she misses him. If you’re looking for a romantic, upbeat start to the New Year, it’s an invitation to accept.  v