Artist: Alela Diane
Album: To Be Still
Release Date: Feb. 17, 2009
Hey music fans! Do you like being put into a trance? A dance trance? A trance where you may or may not end up wearing natural fibers and chewing on a piece of hay as you sit around the fire and smoke something? If so, then Alela Diane's latest album, To Be Still, is the album for you. And yet, don't overlook these melodies as simple campfire songs. If there is one thing that Diane's two albums have shown the world, it's the fact that she is capable of a delicate and haunting compilation of music tracks.
Alela Diane came on the music scene with her simple self-release of The Pirate's Gospel in 2004 (revamped and rereleased in 2006). She caused a rippling effect throughout America, that landed her in Europe where her success and talent have continued to grow. Raised in Nevada City, California, and currently living in Portland, Oregon, Alela Diane is classified in the Psych Folk and New Weird America genres because her meditative lyrics are earthy and natural and her sound combines a trance-like compilation of simple instruments. She is most often compared to Jolie Holland, Josephine Foster, and let's not forget The Be Good Tanyas.
Her follow-up album has been long awaited and much anticipated. But is it worth the wait? Yes. Sort of. No, it really is, but I have some explaining to do. Her first album boasted the amazing title track "The Pirate's Gospel" with a sing-songy "Yo ho yo ho" and a deeper, stronger voice than she shows us in this current album. She just seemed to have more spunk, more energy, more attitude, and more to prove than she does in To Be Still, and maybe this is to her credit. Perhaps the first album was the artistic expression of a girl who had to show the world what she was made of (and we liked it), and her second album is the artistic expression of a woman who is whole and complete. While weighing in at only 25 years old, her voice contains the cadence, pitch, wisdom, and soul of a much older woman, and I just like that. I like that she knows who she is. I like that she wrote every track and every lyric. I like that her voice gives you unexpected sweeps and lurches, almost like sailing on temperamental waves. She has intense diction, and that's rare. I like that her simple symphony sings you to sleep, ahem, in a good way. It's just a calming album. Sit on your porch, relax, and take it in. If your looking for that intensity that the first album made you feel down in your gut, you're just not going to find it here.
"Age Old Blues," with its interwoven harmonies, simple tale of field workers, and quick guitar will be a fan favorite. Also noteworthy is the Celtic feel of "The Alder Trees" as her vocals truly soar and her arrangements are powerful. Yes, those two will be the favorites of the album, but I have to say that I became more awake when I listened to "The Ocean". The powerful drum, the female seeker of truth, "the sunset by the sea is in her mind and she was always hopin' to someday to leave the mountain, domestic chores and children, the darkness of winter. Painting all these mermaids wandering to the seashore. She wanted him to follow, but his heart was with the hillside. In spirit, she drifted to the ocean" just made me feel like I had been sung a good tale.
When asked about the creative journey in producing this album, Alela Diane said, "It began in Portland, OR and was finished in scatters between tours at my dad's home studio in Nevada City, CA. I wanted to record this collection of songs using arrangements which would represent them in their finest form. These songs requested more instrumental filigree than those on The Pirate's Gospel. It was challenging to delicately, yet purposefully incorporate instrumentation into songs that I was so used to singing by myself. I was determined to make it work, because I wanted percussion! I wanted to hear the lonesome bow of the violin! I heard many harmonies in my head, and so I set out to capture them."
Well, Alela, I think you succeeded with what you set out to do.