California artist Nedelle, a product of her parents’ classical and jazz influences, is making the jump from very small indie to a little bit bigger indie. While it may not be Nirvana going from Sub Pop to Geffen, it is a significant step for the songstress. With one previous solo record and collaboration with a friend, Nedelle was asked to bring her act to Kill Rock Stars. Her first album, Republic of Two was a soul / bossanova record, mostly influenced by the records she would dig out of her father’s jazz collection. This time around, Nedelle plays the part of acoustic folk performer and she fits easily into those shoes.
From the Lion’s Mouth is comprised of mostly Nedelle and her guitar. A few scattered songs have strings, horns, or a drum/bass combo. Opener “Tell Me a Story” reminds me of friends I used to have in college who would strum their guitars in their dorm rooms and make up songs on the fly. You felt like they were playing only for you, mostly because they were. But Nedelle puts this feeling into every song, letting you feel like she is singing only for you, letting you in on her innermost feelings. In that opening song, Nedelle does indeed tell a story, one about wanting to be distracted from thinking about her dog that has passed away. At first listen, you might notice that she is not exactly a polished and perfect singer. What she has to make up for it is earnestness, honesty and personality. Again, that’s at first listen. Upon further listening, her voice becomes so comfortable in your ears that you wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s like a piece of furniture that you get and always meant to refinish, but have become so used to its appearance that you can’t bring yourself to do it.
“Good Grief” is the first song to contain a backing band and is a two and a half minute pop masterpiece. Comparisons have been made before to the likes of Dusty Springfield and Karen Carpenter, and after this song you can hear why. The same can be said for the song “Heatstroke.” To me, she’s almost like a sixties era, sunny California version of Ani DiFranco. Clichés become poignant and incisive commentary in her delivery such as when she sings, “And I know he feels the same and I’m terrified.” Most of the songs on From the Lion’s Mouth are barely over two minutes and as such seem the perfect length. Each song becomes a pocket sized nugget to digest quickly and efficiently. Nedelle doesn’t try to overwhelm the listener with overlong instrumental spans or repeated choruses. Instead, she delivers a compact package of brilliantly crafted little ditties that reveal her soul two minutes at a time. Nedelle creates her own backing vocals on songs like “The Natural Night” and “Begin to Breathe”. In the latter case, the backup vocals are Supremes / Pips like, recalling soul singers of the sixties, but because all of the voices are hers, there is much more of a personal touch.
I can’t help but be reminded of another artist who had a sophomore effort on Kill Rock Stars, Elliott Smith. Both tell personal stories, influenced by music from the sixties, with the help of an acoustic guitar. And while Elliott Smith is a starker album, From the Lion’s Mouth is indeed similar at least in its confessional manner. Now we just have to wait to see if her KRS stint leads to a major label deal. Nedelle is a true, original talent deserving just as much recognition as her peers such as Joanna Newsom and Sam Beam. Now if I can just figure out what the deal is with the Disney-esque zoo animals on the cover…
Iron & Wine- The Creek Drank the Cradle
Ani DiFranco- Ani DiFranco
The Carpenters- Close to You