Rusted Blue Records
Full disclosure: I reviewed Alela Diane’s wonderful last album Alela Diane and Wild Divine as a promo from Rough Trade. And I’m not being glib here. That album and her Rough Trade debut, To be Still were and are wonderful. I write this as a fan first and a critic second. As for her self-released debut The Pirate’s Gospel, I still need to hear this. My apologies.
This is stark, spare, haunting, intense, eerily calm music. While cathartic, it’s not a downer. Mostly just Diane on acoustic guitar, with guests such as Heather Broderick (Horse Feathers, Efterklang, Loch Lomond) piano and flute, Holcombe Waller on strings, and Neal Morgan (Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan) drums. She recorded and mixed the album with John Askew at Scenic Burrows and Mix Foundry.
So yes, this is a folk album, a little like early Dar Williams at her most pared down, think “February” from Mortal City, or Mary McCaslin’s lost classic album from 1974, Way Out West. Any album that could sound as good as them will always make me take notice.
Lyrically, it’s just as cathartic. Diane went through a divorce, and she explores her emotions, and her decisions about it. It’s not so much confessional as honest as to why she thinks and feels the way she does. And while there are many albums on the subject, this stands out. She doesn’t make a big statement about anything she went through, just says what she needs to, and leaves it at that.
With neo-folk riding high on the charts, is there any place for an album that is straight up folk music. Yes, absolutely, and this album is a relief in the wake of Mumford and the rest of that genre. There is a long tradition of folk being quiet and devastating, Joan Beaz’s song “Diamonds and Rust” come to mind, and that was around long before the latest folk wave, and will remain long after that trend fades. Diane’s album is in Beaz’s tradition, which makes it true folk, because true folk is a lot more than what on the charts right now. https://www.facebook.com/aleladianemusic