Daisy DeBolt, |
I must admit I was a bit skeptical when I received Daisy DeBolt's CDs, as the cover sporting photos of a woman with an accordion and tracks titled "Go to Sleep You Little Creep" puzzled me and made me wonder just what I was getting in to. What I was in for is a remarkable mixture of almost every tradition, from jazz to rock to country, all brought together by DeBolt's strong, husky and uncharacteristically beautiful voice.
"Paradise" starts off the album feeling a bit like a fairy song, complete with a wandering guitar and pipe leading into the heart of the tune. DeBolt's voice is immediately remarkable, and backed by the strong beat and a combination of her trademark accordion, fiddles, guitars and percussion, she creates fun and rambunctious music with a great jazzy finish. The entire album feels like a wonderfully in-sync jam session among friends (and may very well be), and DeBolt proves to be a capable and inspired leader.
"Bag Lady Blues" moves more toward rock than the country beginning, although there is choral back up which adds gospel and blues to the mix. The lyrics provide a proud song of a bag lady, with a strong sense of voice and personality. The song ends up feeling a little like a Catsesque lament, though the lyrics take it down a notch, beginning with "Remember Lucy / Remember the Watusi" to "There she goes down the street / What, haven't you seen shopping bags before?"
"Hurtin' Country Swimmin' Song" features slide guitar, and the country beat is certainly definite. The happy feeling of the music distracts from the sad theme of the song (as the lyrics say, "happiness cannot be defined by you ... I don't know about love anymore, I just know it don't work, you just learn not to care."
"Healing Sky," a quiet piano ballad, recalls a '40s torch singer, not unlike Rita Hayworth singing "Put the Blame on Mame" in Gilda. DeBolt's vibrato voice feels more like an instrument at times, adding a low, melancholy melody to this contemplation of friendship and comfort.
"Wind Fall" begins a bit like "Paradise," with the percussion leading, accordion entering in with yearning note, and then the bass rolling in a swing beat. In an unexpected connection, I was reminded of Ani di Franco and Dar Williams with this song, meditating on travel and the harsher emotions, mainly because of DeBolt's unshakeable attitiude and use or words and their rhythms with just as much importance as the intruments.
"Long Hot Summer," one of the longer tracks of many long songs (though certainly none of them drag), begins with a moody electric guitar. The tune feels almost solemn, a feeling compounded by the wordless choral backup and the lyrics: "still looking for his wife / even though she's been gone a year / or two, or three / He can't remember / He can't recall / there's only shadows on the wall." Not too soon, however, the melody moves slowly into more of a beat, into a way to survive the heat wave of the title and ends on a much groovier and more hopeful note.
"Clydesdales and Cadillacs" melds well with the finish of "Long Hot Summer," though it is a much angrier song. A dark, heavy beat filled with mourning voices, though not without energy, adds weight to the issues addressed, the song a condemnation of ignoring the land and excess of industry.
"Winter #16" falls into the torch song category again, a long, lamenting song, both melodic and melancholy, but interestingly not a broken figure. The lyrics again are eerily evocative, from "an old woman sleeps with a young moon in her arms" and the echoing landscape of "trees who do not remember leaves dance sadly." The song turns into a kind of off-key tango while DeBolt's voice offers an unusual fragility.
"Arizona Dream" throws off the sadness of the last track and drops right into a calling to travel and escape the familiar. The sharp beginning knocks you out of the calm "Winter #16" left you in and encourages you to both bounce again and imagine a different place to call home.
The title track, "I Can," is unexpectedly eerie in its use of electronic instruments. The song is a calm and almost reverant tribute to the power of memory. DeBolt's usual instruments weave through the backdrop, a cello soaring through the finish. The repetitive phrasing of the title becomes a mantra and a beat.
"Great Big Silver Dinosaurs" is strange, melodramatic, true and ridiculous as a fairy tale and full of just as much energy and storytelling. The beat sounds almost dangerous, and the accompanying language feels like a tale for either a child or an adult who still has a sense of wonder, although the story feels more serious than it seems at first.
"Go to Sleep You Little Creep" is a great, whacked-out lullaby, and seems to have no deeper meaning than that. Which, in fact, is rather refreshing. The German translation is a little mysterious, but it seems to fit the song well.
"Log" takes the album back to a gentle ballad. The music echoes the subject of companionship, daily comforts and relaxation.
The final cut of the album, "The River Sings in E," involves all of the energy and many-piece band that is DeBolt's trademark. Beginning with a prelude of river sounds, leading from insects singing to a fiddle, then guitar and then finally resolving itself into a rhythm and melody. From there it takes off into a strong and satisfyingly raucous finale.
All in all, Daisy DeBolt is not only a lot of fun, but also gifted with a fine-tuned sense of human nature, rhythm, music, and just how much good it can do to sing along with an album. So get your vocal chords warmed up and pop in this CD for an exuberant ride in DeBolt's imagination and heart.
[ by Robin Brenner ]