Is it possible to take an almost instant liking to an album merely because within the opening sentences the word filigree is used as the descriptive of choice to describe the characters frock? I have to say, even after repeated listening's, that I think the answer is most definitely yes. Certain, often rarely used words, can elevate a song beyond its arrangement and the opening track 'To Begin' is no different in that respect. Had Alela merely decided to settle for blue or green then her aim of 'winning the listener over' would have been a little more difficult. However it appears that 'Wild Divine' is not an album that has just 'made do' in any aspect of its creation or production. The words were 'fastidiously chosen' and are centred around the themes of 'Life, death and the unknown.' To Begin was written 'after embarking on an afternoon of hypnosis in my hometown; the lyrics reference the journey I took during my alter-reality and the things that became clear,'
The new album from Portland, Oregon (Is it a prerequisite that all major up and coming artistic American talents now spend time, rather like National Service, in this Zip Code? I may have to rethink our next family holiday) resident Alela Diane is her 3rd and follows 2009's 'To Be Still' and 2004's 'The Pirate's Gospel'. Now married to guitarist, once bassist and latterly writing partner Tom Bevitori, Ms Diane has deemed it a perfect time to be less reliant on the banjoes and fiddles of the past and explore her newly acquired instrument of choice; the piano. However the instrument that makes each of these tracks especially effective is still her voice. Cutting through and resonating like it were about to bestow divine wisdom with each utterance, it's nigh on impossible to tear yourself away. Warm and tender without being mawkish or cliched, Alela is capable of capturing angst, agony and emotion way beyond the relativity of her years.
Each song is a well written and evocative piece. 'Elijah' tells the story of a young Madeline and her burden of duty and then 'Long Way Down' bares the fruit of the new matrimonial and collaborative exchange as love is laid bare..............'When the wine ain't sweet but the loves still true, it's been done before, you can work it through.' Among the highlights of the album ..'going deep into the ricochet of yesteryear' is the tremendous narrative of 'Suzanne'. (It's like an American Laura Marling meets Anna Calvi, but in the best way possible) Here, and on 'Of Many Colors', the accompanying instrumentation serves only to heighten the vocal and lyrical content with its understated minimalism and subtlety. The piano flourishes, drum rattles or guitar strums rarely threaten to pierce the intensity built by Alela's voice.
The quality is maintained to the last. 'D-e-s-i-r-e' will have you mellowed out and sympathising for the wayward waif before 'Heartless Highway' turns through a 60's Sax infused worm hole to a jazzier and 'groovier' time all together. 'White Horse' treads a more familiar path of troubled souls making life choices before the closer 'Rising Greatness' caps off the 10 part performance with another dip into the troubled life of the aforementioned Suzanne.
Alela Diane & The Wild Divine was produced by Scott Litt, a previous collaborator with R.E.M and Patti Smith, after he chose to end his 7 year lay off because of the will and desire he felt towards helping to realise the potential of this record. Be thankful that he did, it contains many splendid moments of lyrical brilliance, wonderfully sung and beautifully captured.