Tuesday, May 17, 2011

REVIEW: Alela Diane & Wild Divine

I just discovered Alela Diane on the recent release of her 3rd CD Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Rough Trade Records). What a terrific singer and writer. Maybe I somehow missed the boat because she was often lumped into the "freak folk" scene, which I'm not totally sure what that is, but nonetheless never signed up for their newsletter. But this full band effort is quite varied stylistically. It's a rich, warm and very moving set of songs.

Expectations are a tricky thing in music - they can bring you in, push you away, make you give something much more of a chance, or give up on it more quickly. This record for me is the experience we've all had where some patience was greatly rewarded. I liked the record on first impression, but find it dialing in more with each successive listen. Now I can't put the CD away, am moving it from home to car to office.

Alela's singing is a rare combination of multi-octave technically great, emotionally expressive, tasteful, super cool, and never overdone. She delivers the song.

The production by Scott Litt (R.E.M., Nirvana, the Replacements, and a long list) is outstanding, using a filled out sound to capture the full expression of each song but still keep the focus on Alela Diane's strong, memorable voice.

My favorite songs here are not the slightest bit "folk" (not that folk songs or even "freak folk" songs are bad): - one is a gentle and perfect pop song, "Desire", two are country songs "Long Way Down" and "Of Many Colors" and "Heartless Highway" is this slightly jazzy slow groove with a killer vocal hook about two minutes in ("But I've got to get back, I've got to get back..."). Listen here:

There is some excellent guitar work here too by Tom Bevitori and Tom Medig, Diane's husband and father, respectively. It's a family affair.

Not many videos available to embed yet, but there are excellent studio performances of "Elijah" and "To Begin", songs from this CD here (see left column in link), along with a great deal of other artist info: http://www.aleladiane.com/
In the end, it's all about that voice. Truly special. Here's a taste:


2b9c9a80-8e48-11e0-9f86-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Have you checked out her album "To Be Still"? Her voice is amazing. Oddly, I discovered her music playing on the muzak at work a couple of years ago and downloaded that album based on hearing one of those songs.
I'm Kelli. I work with Dr. Reddy and he turned me onto this blog. Thanks for all the great music info!

Jim Desmond said...

Thanks for reading and posting. You have a great mentor there in Dr. Reddy, one of my heroes.
I am just now going back to discover the full Alela catalogue.
Her national tour just started and happens to be in my city tonight. No Florida show sadly, Atlanta may be closest she'll get to you.