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Thursday, May 8, 2008

CD Review: Jessie Kilguss - Exotic Bird

Jessie Kilguss – Exotic Bird
2007 Jessie Kilguss and Super Buddha

Scenario: If I told you I had this great debut CD from an established actress, you’d probably roll your eyes. And if I told you said actress decided kind of midstream in her career that she liked to write songs, you might run away.

You’d be oh so wrong to do so.

Jessie Kilguss has offered a set of stunningly breathtaking songs on her debut CD, Exotic Bird. The veteran of stage and screen (The Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis, and Tom Waits/Robert Wilson/William Burroughs’ The Black Rider) sings and performs with a panache and ethereal beauty that is rare in popular music. Producer Super Buddha (Blondie, Scissor Sisters, Rufus Wainwright) has taken Ms. Kilguss musical visions and helped her create a lush landscape against which to sing her bardic tales.

Jessie Kilguss is your coachman on Exotic Bird, carrying you to lands and ideas you’d perhaps not considered before. Desert Song is a gorgeous introduction: sparse and lush at the same time. It serves as a solid appetizer for the delicious All I Am Is Breath, with the jaunty, evil vocal cameo by Alan Cox (who also shows up later in The Dream). This particular track could be the centerpiece to a musical. It’s that good.

The Word is another highlight. This is a more traditional ballad that reflects the layers of Jessie Kilguss’ voice. She shows shades of Joni Mitchell here, but stylistically Jessie Kilguss has much in common with the great Sarah Slean. The Crypt is a haunting must-hear, and The Acrobat will make you think of Norah Jones just a tad.

The cover of Tom Waits’ I’ll Shoot The Moon is pure cabaret. You’ll find yourself swaying along. If you close your eyes you’ll almost be able to see the smoky nightclub and black-tie crowd. Sometimes conveys a sense of urgency and angst that stands out from the rest of the album. It’s a little zap from the artist who has lulled you in with her storytelling to make sure you’re still with her. It’s unique and a little disturbing, but it works.

Delicate Queen is animalistic, almost a feminine answer to Trent Reznor’s Closer. It is more of a talk-sing song and sets the listener on edge before the closing number, a magnificent interpretation of Jacques Brels’ The Desperate Ones.

I don’t generally spend this much time in a review covering individual songs, choosing to hit the highlights, but Exotic Bird is a different kind of album. I wasn’t even sure I liked it after the first listen. It was like walking into a different culture with which you are unfamiliar and it took a little adjustment, but this is probably one of the most rewarding discs I’ve come across in some time.

Jessie Kilguss gets Wildy’s World’s highest recommendation for Exotic Bird. This is Desert Island stuff, folks. Pick it up, check it out – just make sure you give it a chance. It will grow on you like a weed.

Exotic Bird, indeed.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jessie Kilguss at You can purchase copies of Exotic Bird at

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