Monday, February 23rd, 2009
White As Diamonds
Review of Alela Diane's To Be Still and Soundscapes in-store
Frank YangWhat had been forecast as just some light snow on Saturday evening blew into town as more of a proper storm, apparently on the exact same route that Alela Diane was taking en route from Detroit and thus delaying her in-store performance at Soundscapes by nearly an hour.
Considering that she had to get to the Horseshoe to soundcheck for her sold-out show supporting Blitzen Trapper, it would have been understandable if she’d bailed entirely but sending her band ahead to the venue, she still made it to the shop to perform for a crowd that’d thinned only a little from the scheduled start time – a testament, perhaps, to how much people wanted to see her perform in such an intimate environment.
Chances are they’d been won over by her just-released and critically acclaimed sophomore album, To Be Still. And it’s not hard to see why – it’s a beautifully constructed contemporary folk record, with Diane’s evocative songwriting perfectly supported by her clear, strong voice – it’s not a showy instrument, but one which lilts and yodels in exactly the right spots to offer emotional emphasis to the words. Diane is then surrounded by just the right amount of accompaniment – fingerpicked guitar, banjo, fiddle, steel, gentle percussion – to fill things out without ever threatening to overpower. It’s a balance that’s harder to achieve than you might think, but To Be Still gets it just right.
But stripped of that backing as Diane was at the in-store, she still impresses. Her voice is much more powerful than you might expect and has a bit of a rawer edge that’s not as evident on record, and across a brief set – maybe 20 minutes – she was mesmerizing. At the end of it, she thanked us for sticking around and we thanked her for making it out. Everybody wins.
MPR has a streaming session with Alela Diane.
I forgot to post up an MP3 from the new Hylozoists record L’Ile de Sept Villes when I wrote up their Soundscapes in-store a couple weeks back. Consider that rectified. And check out an interview with the band at Chart.
And the next Soundscapes in-store will be with Gentleman Reg – that’s tomorrow night at 6PM and marks the release of his new album Jet Black, which is currently streaming at his MySpace. He also plays the Horseshoe on March 12 as part of CMW. The Queen’s Journal has a conversation with Reg.
Colin Meloy discusses The Decemberists’ pre-tour preparation with Billboard. Their shows will consist of one set comprising their new record Hazards Of Love (out March 24) in its entirety and in sequence and another set of older material.
Fever Ray, aka Karin Dreijer Andersson. the she-half of Swedish electro duo The Knife, will release her self-titled debut album on March 18 and will be in town at The Phoenix on May 25. She’s interviewed by Sentimentalist and Drowned In Sound.