Blue Note Records
If you’re after something pleasantly innocuous to wallpaper the cocktail hour, look elsewhere. It takes a finely attuned jazz oenophile to fully appreciate the multishaded bouquet of Jackie Allen. For like fine wine, Allen gets not only better with age, but also more complex. Both in tone and attitude, there are scattered hints of Emmylou Harris, labelmate Amos Lee, Jim Morrison, Blossom Dearie and, most distinctly, Janis Ian. Her hypnotic sound suggests stalactites hanging deep within some vast cave—jaggedly clear and cool yet vaguely threatening. Even in a number as caressingly soft as “You’re Nearer” there’s the underlying suggestion of trouble brewing.
The danger surfaces, full strength, in the icy “Cold Grey Eyes” and within the hauntingly sinister twists of the title track, before Allen dives to the soul-clouding ache of “Living Without You.” Then, just to keep us guessing, she reinvents Rodgers and Hart’s “Everything I’ve Got” as an exercise in deranged obsession and morphs into a Roaring ’20s hellcat on the steam-heated “Do Wrong Shoes.” Through it all, though, there is one consistency: It’s all prime stuff.