Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Laura Mering) is a professional singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania who is currently based in Santa Monica, CA. She is best known for her emotive, Baroque-pop-sounding album, Titanic Rising. Mering chose “When You’re Smiling” for the soundtrack of Nat Geo’s new series, titled A Small Light. The single-season show is about the life of Miep Geis, a Dutch writer who aided in hiding Anne Frank and her family.
“When You’re Smiling” is an extremely popular jazz standard that was first written in the 1920s. It’s been done by jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Seger Ellis. The older versions have a heavy backbeat and brushes on the drums, vocal scatting, and oftentimes, understated muted trumpet. Weyes Bloods’ version is as light as a feather, with an elegant harp, and harmonically rich piano. But forget the instrumentals! It’s the vocals that bathe everything in beams of golden light. From the layered “mmm”s and “ooo”s that flow seamlessly from one to the other, to the plainspoken, floating verses, this cover is breathtaking. As the tune comes to a close, the harp and piano descend down the royal staircase of a scale.
Be sure to also check out these other classy jazz covers!