Nevada City, Calif.’s Alela Diane, now residing in the musically fertile Portland, Ore., is an extremely, extremely (yes I’m saying it twice) talented guitar and song lady. In fact, it’s frustrating to read of genre tags such as ‘Psych Folk’ and ‘New Weird America’ in any write-up about the chanteuse. Aside from the fact that they don’t really mean much of anything, they do no justice to her grace as a singer and a songwriter. Okay, that’s enough gushing.
To Be Still is Alela Diane’s third album, after the self released Forest Parade in 2003 and The Pirate’s Gospel in 2004 (Pirate’s Gospel got a studio release with revised track listing in 2006). Anyone who’s fallen for her through the spellbinding Pirate’s Gospel will be equally smitten here as she starts off with the lovely band and pedal steel aided “Dry Grass & Shadows.” Songs melt together as the album tumbles along; the title track and “The Adler Trees” could be added to a Joni Mitchell playlist for someone being introduced to the music of the great lady, and they likely would not be able to tell the difference. You may ask ‘but can she hit those high notes?’ Yes she can. Okay, that’s enough gushing.
Where To be Still evolves from Pirate’s Gospel is in the backing band and the pedal steel, giving the record that warm ‘country’ feel. There are more people involved on this record, and it’s all the better for it. “Take us back” is wonderful and “Tatted Lace” is unforgettable with her voice simply running away with the song as it climaxes. For the torrent of old time sounding folk singers doing the rounds at the moment it may be possible that Alela Diane gets lost under the radar with her subtleness and shhh factor. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, then again, secretly, maybe let’s hope it does, just so we can keep her. Gush.
Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Marissa Nadler – Little Hells