Krista Detor is a singer-songwriter whose music defies easy categorization. A pianist with an expressive, sultry singing voice, she has found a radio home on the Euro-Americana charts across the ocean. Her Midwestern sensibilities seem to connect with listeners in Belgium, Germany and England who are drawn to the melancholy of the mythologized Great Plains.
Her first album, Mudshow, was a remarkable debut, fully realized and thoroughly original. Her latest, Cover Their Eyes, is not as immediately striking, taking longer to unfold and reveal its musical delights. But like a long line of favorite records, it grows on you with each new play until you can't get the songs out of your head.
The album's opening line succinctly lays out Detor's lyrical milieu: "The Studebaker plant is closing down, Chevy's taking over the town..." With an elliptical melody embellished with the singer's multi-tracked harmonies, laid-back piano and David Weber's sympathetic production touches, the plaintive tone of the disc is set.
"Marlene in a Movie" is as close to rock-n-roll as Detor gets; in "Go Ahead and Wait," the narrator declares what a beautiful day it is, but "I'll probably end it all tomorrow" while a tuba honks out a bassline in the background. The tune to "Waterline" sounds like it was pulled out of the Appalachian mountain air.
Detor told me earlier this year that her music often comes through visual sources, "the way a certain light hits something." She paints vivid pictures through the poetry of her lyrics: "Miniature bottles all stand uninspected/right next to the beer steins my father collected/Dust from the curtains is snow in the air/and they are all hiding still, back behind there." ("Cover Their Eyes")
But as rich as is her wordsmithery, it's ultimately the sound that defines this recording. Touches of violin and dobro here and there, a banjo animating "Anemic Moon," a tinkling cocktail piano on "Dinner with Chantel," the circularity of "Icarus," the gospel call-and-response of "Lay Him Down." It's the sound of the American heartland.
With a limited discography, Krista Detor has already established herself as a talent deserving wider recognition. Cover Their Eyes takes her further down the road in her ongoing exploration of the earthy lives lived and dreamed in the midsection of America.
copyright © 2008 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Originally published in Treehouse Magazine, 11/17/08