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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bernadette Seacrest transcends the blues in life and song

click to enlarge SEA CHANGE: Bernadette Seacrest (from left), Kris Dale and Charles Williams say grace with a gun.
  • SEA CHANGE: Bernadette Seacrest (from left), Kris Dale and Charles Williams say grace with a gun.

Bernadette Seacrest looks like trouble.

The 45-year-old femme fatale and singer who fronts the trio known simply as Her Provocateurs, has the face of a 1950s pin-up model and the tattoos of an old-school, streetwise punk. Every drop of ink on her body – from the barbed chain around her neck to the brilliant colors that sleeve her arms – tells the story of a fiercely independent woman who has suffered the highs and lows of life on the fringes to carve her own musical niche.

Her pure, angelic croon seems more likely to be found in the pages of a pulp crime novel than in the here and now. Having grown up in Venice Beach, Calif., she's filled with tales ranging from being bullied by Dogtown skateboarders in the late '70s to dating Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery, whom she calls her first love. But there's a dark side to her past as well, one that's marred by battles with a heroin addiction that, had she failed to overcome it, would have stopped her from ever finding the confidence to sing for an audience.

With Bernadette Seacrest and Her Provocateurs' new CD, The Filthy South Sessions, Seacrest's haunting presence collides with songwriter/guitarist Charles Williams' heady arrangements in a sound that skirts the boundaries of jazz, blues and lounge music. "Swing noir" is the clever catch phrase she likes most. The songs simmer with a sparse, spectral sound that builds on the complex chemistry between Seacrest and Williams. "Charles is a very cerebral person and I am the polar opposite of that," she explains. "That's what's really good between us and that's what creates tension. Everything I do comes from the gut ... and my hips, and he's in his head. It's amazing that we can do what we do without killing each other," she laughs. "It's like a pelvis thing and it's a cranium thing."

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(Photo by Jon Kownacki)

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