Jill Tracy
Diabolical Streak
~reviewed by Blu

Editor's note: I must admit I'm a tad bit late getting this review out and its because quite frankly, I'm almost intimidated by it - in a good way mind you. Have you ever had something that you feel inept at describing? I don't think I have the vocabulary to do this CD justice. Maybe I'll ease into this... just keep in mind, whatever I say, doesn't even come close to describing this CD and its creator properly- it is that good .
Inside CD Sleeve on Diabolical Streak
This review comes on the eve of a very sad occasion: DeadAir radio in Atlanta is dead. It's ceased to exist; put to rest as its creator moves onto other things after years and years of bringing the very best obscure and wonderful music to the ears of its eager and devoted listeners. Ironically, DeadAir is where I first heard Jill Tracy so we have come full circle in a way. I was listening to a segment of it at work one day, and this sensuous female voice was suddenly slithering out of my computer speakers over top delicate and teasing piano melodies. I was immediately intrigued and captivated. I checked for a play list to find out who it is and there wasn't one. In frustration I emailed Michael Overstreet and said, "Say! Don't keep her all to yourself, who is the incredible lady on piano?" He laughed and apologized for the lack of a playlist (which was remedied the next day) and told me it was Jill Tracy and her website is  http://www.jilltracy.com/ and that she is really that good and I must must must check out her stuff. The website, if you've heard her music, is as darkly artistic and mysterious as you might expect. It's done quite beautifully. Just one glimpse at the section titled "The Tale" and you'll get an notion of what you might be in for: 

In the autumn of 1994, word crept through the San Francisco underground concerning an East Coast émigré with a fondness for black feather boas and Baudelaire...a mysterious pianist and singer with a sultry theatrical presence and captivatingly dark sound.

Her very first performance dangerously over-packed a tiny Hayes Street art gallery. Frantic, the owners attempted to stop the onslaught, but the crowd cheered for an encore; The police arrived, as did the San Francisco Bay Guardian who proclaimed her "an elegant and mysterious siren...a stunningly hypnotic performer." Indeed, JILL TRACY had arrived.

.... Delightfully grim tales of poisonings, revenge and lusty obsessions seem at the same time to tantalize ...and lead to trepidation. It is no wonder that critics have called her "a femme fatale for the thinking man."

I'll resist the urge to go in further on the personal details because I could very well ramble this review into a feature length story -- and I've got that (and an interview) planned for another month (stay tuned!) -- so onward with the music itself shall we? 

The CD opens with "Evil Night Together" - a song that I played at my Halloween event which went over very well as indicated by the number of people who wandered up to the DJ booth to inquire what it was. It starts with a teasing tickling of the ivories, followed by a menacing string chord and saunters right in to a playful ragtime tempo. Her voice comes through the speakers for the first time with a throaty bit of sensuality as she enchants and tempts with a delicious sense of danger. 

I'll hold your hand while they drag the river
I'll cuddle you in the undertow
I'll keep my head on your trigger finger
I'll take you down where the train tracks go
let's while away the hours
let's spend an evil night together
You think you can handle it? Cause there's much more... 

Track two is titled "The Fine Art of Poisoning" whose violin intro harkens back to a victorian theme, perhaps a delicate film noire, as that voice slithers in again - a Siren, playfully and carefully articulating each word as if they themselves are her ingredients  for poisoning our minds and souls with her dark incantations. The sinister overtones continue in "Pulling Your Insides Out"  while "Extraordinary" changes tone just a bit and actually goes in praise of someone causing me to wonder just exactly what kind of person would be interesting enough enchant someone like Jill. My favorite lines from that song are:

You're open to interpretation
like the trap door underneath your tousled throne
and I'm engaged and I'm enraged and I'm enchanted
with this little bit of magic I've been shown
"The Proof" is a ghastly series of small stories about the untimely deaths of several characters connected by the chorus - it rather reminds me of Edward Gorey in ways -- drawn together with a great string section and playful bassoon. The slower, sadly beautiful "Just the Other Side of Pain" showcases Jill's talent for bittersweet, intelligent yet emotionally laden lyrics..."the persian rugs have gone threadbare, the waxing moon has lots its flair, the wishes drowned beneath the well, the razor blades have all gone dull...cause I'm still waiting for what's wonderful just the other side of pain..."  

A jazz inspired beat propels "You Leave Me Cold" while she croons yet another seductive lullaby while the almost folksy upbeat tones of "Doomsday Serenade" cloaks smart tongue in cheek armageddon talk. Track 9, "Precursor #7 (for a levitation)" is a short but exquisite instrumental which leads up to the title track, "Diabolical Streak." Jill's moody piano playing sets the tone, timpani drums add the drama and this devil-diguised as angel comes meandering in singing her own theme song with lines like "so I linger in the hallway one story down below longing for a 45 revolver and a 62 bordeaux, but you're the only one who can please me, you're the only one..."

And while she's received some notable awards and has participated in cinematic events (several in San Francisco); it's unfathomable to me that some major label hasn't picked her up yet and kissed her feet... or why a big film maker like David Lynch hasn't contracted her to do film scores. She is unique - a soul out of its time; intriguing, intelligent, sensual and just diabolical enough to make you wonder if that angelic grin isn't a devilish smirk instead.  I have played this CD for musicians here in Seattle and they've been immediately bewitched by it. You will too, guaranteed. When someone mentioned that the whole "girl and a piano" thing reminded them of Tori Amos - all I could say was, "Jill is what everyone wished Tori Amos could be before she went all media friendly and pop." Stop by her web page and discover this gem for yourself. There are even song samples -- if you dare...

1. Evil Night Together
2. The Fine Art of Poisoning
3. Pulling Your Insides Out
4. Extraordinary
5. The Proof
6. Just the Other Side of Pain
7. You Leave Me Cold
8. Doomsday Serenade
9. Precursor #7 (for a levitation)
10. Diabolical Streak

The Malcontent Orchestra:
Jill Tracy - Grand Piano, Vocals
Alexander Kort - Double Bass, Violoncello
Daniel Baer - Violin
Eric Gebow- Drums, Percussion, Timpani
Nadine Whitfield - Bassoon
Eenor - Yaili Tambour