SAFE INSIDE THE DAY is Baby Dee's début album for her new label, Drag City, and it will probably surprise all those who have learnt to love her. This immensely talented artist has already produced timeless music on her Durtro albums (recently collected on THE ROBIN'S TINY THROAT cd), but this is definitely a twist in the tale.
To start with, the mood here is much more dynamic with instruments such as strings, bass, drums and guitar that come to complement Baby Dee's usual palette of harp, piano and beautiful Nina Simone - inflected vocals. Musical references are also more varied, comprising Kurt Weill's Lieder, Gavin Friday's expressionist cabaret and Transformer - era Lou Reed, all elements that add new bite to this singer's already remarkable personality.
But there are other changes. On the MADE FOR LOVE ep (2005) one could detect a definite move towards a bluesier, rawer vocal approach, which comes to the fore on this release: listen, for instance, to THE ONLY BONES THAT SHOW or BIG TITTY BEE GIRL, while other tracks display a mordant vaudeville style, of which a prime example is the marvellous THE EARLIE KING. And, needless to say, the new vocal and instrumental leanings have affected the lyrics too; gone is the exquisite balladry, in favour of assertive parables that sometimes open up to let in softer images, thus producing a sequence of emotional pianissimos and fortissimos, also mirrored in the music. What remains the same is the literary quality of these words, only cloaked in a bluesier register, at the same time more traditional and poetically challenging.
After the initial surprise the album starts to sink into one's psyche, conquering the listener inch by inch. You even find yourself thinking that it seems too short, as three tracks out of eleven are intrumentals (another change!) but this does not detract from the end result: these bistrot/chamber music compositions showcase the group's prowess, beautifully complementing the atmosphere evoked by the songs themselves.
SAFE INSIDE THE DAY is a warm-sounding album, oozing confidence and dealing with the ups and downs of life with great aplomb. We need this attitude, this wisdom, this enduring fascination.