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Bernadette Seacrest Torches the Highland Inn’s Ballroom Lounge

Where there's smoke, there's Seacrest's vocals.

By Bernadette Seacrest’s estimation, rarely has someone done so little to earn so much recognition. The torch-singing transplant plays as sparingly as an Atlanta performer can get, and yet the city keeps showing its love.

A chance visit to Daddy D’z turned into a semi-regular gig at the barbecue joint, and acclaim as Best Vocalist in Creative Loafing’s 2007 Best of Atlanta (staff pick). A monthly gig for Seacrest and her backup band, the Provocateurs, at the Highland Inn’s Ballroom Lounge kept everyone’s attention enough for a reader’s pick in the same publication this past fall.

“You come to a show at the Highland Inn, and there’s maybe 30 people there,” Seacrest declared over the phone from her home in Druid Hills. “I don’t get it (the acclaim); I don’t know why.”

Seacrest will slightly deviate from her spare schedule for another special appearance with former Atlanta author Karen Abbott, who reads Tuesday night from her new book, “American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee.” Seacrest pulled off the same gig in 2007 when Abbott returned with her first work of titillating history, “Sin in the Second City.”

“It’s the only place we play because I’m a little fussy about playing out,” said the 46-year-old Seacrest, who moved here from Albuquerque in 2007 when she married an old boyfriend after both of them got out of other marriages.

“I love the people who run the club, I like our sound guy, and I like that it’s a little dark, divy venue, which is kind of our style.”

Indeed, Seacrest’s style is dark and divy as she places her own imprint on such jazzy ballads as “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine” (as heard on her live CD recorded a few years ago at Eddie’s Attic) as well as originals from her Provocateurs guitarist, Charles Williams. (Kris Dale fills in on bass.)

For example, “Cabbagetown Girl” is a lovely ode to the service-industry types on the hipper side of Atlanta, as Seacrest name-checks places like The Earl in East Atlanta: “People drift in and stay for years / They grow old and fat on our hash and tears / But don’t even ask for your money back / Just a Cabbagetown girl working nights at the end of the world.”

Just like her gigs, Seacrest likes to keep her band spare — all the better to feature vocals that evokes the shrill pain of Billie Holiday — all of which are featured on their latest release, “The Filthy South Sessions.”

“They’re hardcore jazz guys,” says of the crew. “It’s a huge privilege to get me to play with the adults.”

Bernadette Seacrest & her Provocateurs appear with author Karen Abbott at the Highland Inn’s Ballroom Lounge as part of A Cappella Books’ Ballroom Book Bash series. Tickets are $28 (fee includes a signed copy of Abbott’s new book, “American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee”). Admission is $15 without the book.

http://www.acappellabooks.com/ev_abbott.asp

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