Whenever an artist who has made his or her name in one form of art does work in another, skepticism usually follows. Rappers starring in movies, or movie stars directing, but perhaps particularly actors & actresses doing music. Any film or television show is an ensemble effort, particularly including all of those behind the scenes, and can work around some vain musician in front of the camera or unqualified thespian behind it. Most original musical work, however, rises or falls on the creator’s ability – no backing band or producer can fix that. And the screen star is almost always a pretty face, with the subsequent low expectations about everything else around him or her.
Yet Law & Order and Crossing Jordan’s Jill Hennessy did very well when she showcased her new album, I Do, at The Cutting Room in New York on Monday, October 5th.
First things first: yes, there were some celebrities at the invite-only event. Hennessy having made her name playing the one of the many beautiful A.D.A.s under Sam Waterson on the long-running NYC-set & NYC-made show, there were Law & Order cast members there, like another A.D.A., Richard Brooks. Hell, The Cutting Room is run by Chris Noth, Detective Mike Logan on the show (and later Mr. Big on a very differently quintessentially New York show, Sex & The City), and he was there, looking exactly like Chris Noth should look at his own bar. Also spotted included Alec Baldwin (who your correspondent didn’t risk talking to), Nip/Tuck’s Dylan Walsh (who he did talk with), Brooke Shields, and Billy Connolly, and others. The Cutting Room’s ultra-classy bar (even had copper mugs for Shield’s Moscow Mule) was open before & after the show.
After an introduction & Hennessy noting that the mikestand had to be raised for her from her (male) introducer (she did note that she was wearing heels), Hennessy began with “I Do”, the title track from her new record and a strong slice of country. “Digging My Own Grave” was darker (unsurprising, given its title), including some great accordion work, which continued with single “Something’s Comin’”. Other highlights included her heartfelt immigrant song in “Edmonton” and piece to her father, “Save Me”. Hennessy returned to an encore where she joked about playing Law & Order’s famous theme song and a song about an unnamed actor missing his wife, “Heaven”, and the slide guitar emotional twang of “Thank You”.
The performance and Hennessy’s I Do are decidedly in the country songstress vein of music. She did have a great band & producer (Sean Beaven – Guns n’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails), and yes, she is a pretty face (will be appearing on Madam Secretary, the show that somehow dowdied down Tea Leoni into being Secretary of State). And celebrities & free drinks never hurt. But it was an impressive performance that easily proved any doubters wrong.