Monday, October 12, 2009

Alela and Alina
Alela and Alina
Rough Trade

Alela Diane is a 25 year old folk singer from Portland OR, and Alina Harding is a friend of hers. This 6 song EP is a companion piece to Diane’s terrific To Be Still, released in February of this year on Rough Trade.

To be Still is a wonderful mix and match of 70s, 90s and 21st folk: “Diamonds and Rust” era Joan Baez, early Kate and Anna McGarrigle crossed with Katryna Nields
and Beth Orton vocally. Diane draws on Joanna Newsom for lyrics. Diane's lyrics are even quirkier than Newsome’s but the meanings are easier to understand. In lesser hands this album would have been a mess, but Diane’s sure vision keeps all three elements together seamlessly.

The Alela and Alina EP has the sound of To Be still, with Harding’s voice adding Katryna's sister Nerissa , or a second Beth Orton. The first four songs are new, and all are excellent, both women harmonize very well, like on “Bowling Green” where they wish they were in that town and with their lover. The Child Ballad, “Matty Groves”, made famous by Fairport Convention, with its stark, bare bones updating, fits into the folk tradition of learning songs to pass them on expertly, and gracefully. Rounding things out is a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake” which ends a great EP on a sad, wistful note, but one with a sense of uplift through tragedy. []
Andrea Weiss

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