"Nerves of Steel"
CD review by Roger-Z (05/25/13)
Jill Cagney, the queen of punk folk, will slip past your defenses and lodge directly in your heart. As she sings in the title song of "Nerves of Steel," "I crossed over your border into your comfort zone. Side stepped all of your land mines to keep you from being alone." On her third CD, she re-unites the same musical team that worked on her previous records -- producer Jason Rubal, bassist Roy Nash, drummer Jason Butcher, and guitarist Dan Gallagher. Ms. Cagney penned all the tunes, does all the singing and plays acoustic guitar.
Maybe her work as a guidance counselor in a New Jersey middle school prepared Ms. Cagney to cut to the quick of so many highly charged situations. In "Missing," she ponders the loss of love. "I found your note on the bathroom floor. Left where anyone could see it, looking for a cure. Silently suffering while nothing buffers the torture. Did it come over you overnight? Did you let it in or put up a fight... You went missing but it was only your mind that went away." "Stop Talking" perfectly describes someone we all take pains to avoid. "I devoted some time figuring out what to say the next time you walked over. With your puppy dog eyes and your know it all way, you think I'm a pushover... Won't you please stop talking? Can't you see I'm falling out of my chair. If you say one more thing about all your pain I'm gonna put an ice pick through my brain." "The Creeper" depicts every woman's nightmare lothario. "You look like a creeper in your white sneakers. There's something about you that makes me say 'eww.' You say things like girl you got a good back. You say things like baby that's a nice rack. You think they love you when they give you a hard slap."
Jill Cagney's amazing powers of observation continue throughout the album. In "Vigilante Girlfriend," Cagney takes action against a "player." "A notch on your belt, your bedpost, an item on your shelf, and I won't let you do it to anyone else. I called all your girlfriends. Told them who you are and how it would end. I planted the seeds that will slow your game... I won't be another one of your collectibles." One weekend, Cagney forced herself to do nothing but write songs. Out popped "Procrastination." "There are only two things I need to complete but they involve a small fight between myself and me. Makes me uncomfortable, makes me sweat so I'll do anything else instead. Wash the dog. Shave my legs. Clean the kitchen, Empty the coffee dregs.
Jason Rubal's production puts Cagney's vocals and acoustic guitar up front and center. Her plaintive tone and quirky delivery conjure up images of The B-52s. So much drama, so little time! I can't wait to hear what disturbs her next.