IF YOU'RE slack-jawed and pacified a mere 10 seconds into "Tell Me A Story", the opener of Portland-based bossa-pop songstress Nedelle Torissi's debut for Kill Rock Stars, it means you're listening right. On From The Lion's Mouth, the follow-up to 2002's Republic of Two (Kimchee), Torrisi does much more than soothe the savage beast with the immeasurable strength that lies in the delicacy of her easy voice. Like contemporaries Leslie Feist and Lois Maffeo, she effortlessly straddles the negligible chasm between '40s cocktail jazz and Spinanes territory, but without seeming to know her own understated slickness.
Aside from her classical back-ground (she's played violin and sung since age seven, influenced heavily by her pianist mother), part of what comprises Torrisi's hypnotic talent is the subtle tension between her child-self and old sage-self. We're not talking hippy-dippy Jungian discourse here: the tiny songstress just delivers lines about playing with her puppy--but with the sly sophistication of Lauren Bacall singing to Bogie piano-side in To Have and Have Not. Material on Lion's Mouth is uniform in its understated simplicity, and universal in its themes of childhood, love and the tiny, crystal figurine-style moments of life that require art to capture 'em.
Although Torrisi--who got her start after Tape Op guru John Baccigaluppi got his hands on early four-track demos and went ape shit--possesses a voice blessed with the texture of vulnerability, she's far from having shaky feet. In fact, she's gaining a voracious following and enjoying life on the road more intensely than before, with summer tours on the calendar with Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me) and Deerhoof before she makes the rounds in France and Italy. First, she plays Berbati's Pan on Friday, April 15th.