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To Be Still CD

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Image of album by Alela Diane


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Alela Diane
& Wild Divine
release date: April 5th, 2011

Alela Diane is a homebody by nature. The Portland, Oregon-based, Nevada City, California-bred musician, though traveled the world over, is most at peace within audible range of a crackling fire and her cat's paws padding across the wood floors of her creaky Victorian residence. And although her methods thus far have ... Read more in Amazon's Alela Diane Store

Visit Amazon's Alela Diane Store
for 6 albums, 5 photos, discussions, and more.

Frequently Bought Together

To Be Still + The Pirate's Gospel + Alela Diane & Wild Divine
Price For All Three: £28.21

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Product details

  • Audio CD (16 Feb. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Names
  • ASIN: B001P5Q6NE
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,881 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Dry Grass & Shadows
2. White As Diamonds
3. Age Old Blues
4. To Be Still
5. Take Us Back
6. The Alder Trees
7. My Brambles
8. The Ocean
9. Every Path
10. Tatted Lace
11. Lady Divine

Product Description

BBC Review

To Be Still is the follow-up to psych folk revivalist Alela Diane's small-but-oh-so-perfectly-formed debut, The Pirate's Gospel.

Diane hails from Nevada City, California, a former Gold Rush town whose heyday is for behind it but nonetheless can boast amid its 3,000-odd population the father of American minimalism, Terry Riley, former Supertramp frontman Roger Hodgson, folk singer Mariee Sioux and harpist and singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom, who has described the town as, ''swarming with artists and hippies and old prospectors''.

There's certainly gold aplenty to be found in To Be Still, and more than enough to satisfy hippies and artists. There ought to be a sticker on this album advising it should only be listened to in front of an open fire under summer stars and, ideally, sitting cross-legged. Diane is a minstrel who enchants with lyrics all wispy and winsome and a voice as mellow, warm and intoxicating as a patchouli incense burner.

Decorated with what she calls ''more instrumental filigree'' than was on evidence on her debut, To Be Still subtly deploys lonesome fiddle, heart-plucking banjo, keening pedal steel, blood pulse percussion and raindrop guitar to beguile and bewitch in equal measure.

Diane's distinctive bluegrass-tinged vocal delivery - a cracked-caramel amalgam of Vashti Bunyan, Natalie Merchant and Iris DeMent - errs on understatement, the fragile, fraying edges occasionally cracking with dark-hued pain or blooming into a coyote's full-moon wail. The dominant tone is reflective and nostalgic nd deftly describes assorted hymnals to the natural world, the past, family, friends, love and life getting in the way of living.

With pretty much every track a stand-out track, Age Old Blue, a wistful paean to Diane's Scottish farmstock ancestry, with rough-hewn but luminous vocal support from veteran Michael Hurley, the yearning but unrealisable dreams of The Ocean, the brittle chill of White As Diamonds - ''Some hearts are ghosts settling down in dark waters
/ Just as silt grows heavy and drowns with the stones'' - and the dream-induced hyper-real jumble of Dry Grass & Shadows all stand - and reward - repeated scrutiny.

A perfect gem of album from a significant new talent. --Michael Quinn

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ian Williams TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Oct. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I doubt if I'll say anything that other reviewers haven't, I just want to add my voice to the chorus of approval for Alela Diane and her music.

To be honest, I'm more of a rock and blues fan with a minor liking for folk and African music, and it took several listens before this finally sank in and I began to appreciate its full beauty and subtleties. Diane has an unusual and flexible voice which can, at first, sound a little dischordant but it isn't, it's very lovely and unique and you can't mistake her for anyone else. The lyrics are meditative, about feelings and friends and family, introspective but nevertheless communicating.

It's acoustic with the instruments never for a moment getting in the way of the strong voice. The arrangements are relatively simple with everything working in service of the songs. I like the occasional use of a fiddle which conveys a wistful tone and I'd have liked more of it. The songs grow on you, if not necessarily immediate on first hearing, they gradually twine their way around your mind and become unforgettable.

This is one of the best albums I've heard in years and the most beautiful.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By merlin on 17 Feb. 2009
Format: Audio CD
Alela Diane's debut The Pirate's Gospel was one of those albums that snuck up on you. Pleasant enough, but seemingly innocuous on a first listen, repeated spins ensured it would entrench itself in your soul and place you firmly under its warm embrace. A mix of old world folk, campfire and shanty coupled to Diane's uniquely affecting voice; it was undoubtedly, for many, one of the records of 2007. Two years on, after a hectic tour schedule and collaboration that have included the wonderful Headless Heroes project, alongside David Holmes, she releases her sophomore effort To Be Still.

Opener Dry Grass & Shadows marks an immediate departure from her debut. Where The Pirate's Gospel relied on the plaintive and often quirky duo of Diane's voice and her acoustic, To Be Still sees her flexing her song-writing muscle, fleshing out the skeletal approach from her debut with traditional instrumentation including fiddles, strings, lap steel and some percussion. Where this works, the effects are enchanting; the aforementioned opener, where lap steel swaddles guitar and percussion to create an enveloping pastoral drone. The breathtaking, cello-backed atmosphere of White As Diamonds, the banjo chug of The Alder Trees and the towering The Ocean are wonderfully majestic and tear at your heartstrings rather than tug at them. On the rare occasion her song craft doesn't hit these heights, you yearn for the bare sound of her debut, the title track in particular, recalls the overworked nature of Iron & Wine's latest output.

However fleshed out these songs are however, Diane's voice is still the lynchpin behind this project and it's still wonderful, perhaps even grown in confidence, her range filling every nuance from hoarse and uncertain to effortlessly soaring.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By russell clarke TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Mar. 2009
Format: Audio CD
I knew within the first few words sung by Alela Diane that I was going to love To Be Still. It had nothing to do with the instrumentation which I shall get onto but with her voice and more pertinently her singing style. I loathe caterwaulers and side-splitting over emoting but Alela Diane like the truly great female singers Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill , Catherine Howard sings with a purity and lack of affectation that lets these terrific songs breathe and makes them far more affecting than any amount of tonsil torturing hysterics. Though she does go a touch OTT on "Tatter Lace".
Just listen to the way she sings the truly lovely "Take Us Back" .Her voice occasionally quavers slightly but soars over other lines with out a ripple and the way she harmonise on the high notes .....quite bewitching stuff. The music is an intoxicating mix of folk and modern Americana with chunky cello's , sawing violins , banjo, mandolin, piano, guitar and adroit off kilter percussion.
"White As Diamonds" reminds me of the wonderful song "Rapture" of Laura Vier,s 2004 album Carbon Glacier ,an album and artist who she shares a lot in common with. The lyrics use natural imagery a great deal and there is also a naturalistic uncluttered approach to the song writing. Mostly there is sombre air to the songs but occasionally ,like the violin on "Take Us Back" ,it gets a little playful .Michael Hussey duets on "Age Old Blue " , a song that recalls the brilliant Kate Rusby song "All Gods Angels " off Sleepless.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J Capeling on 3 April 2009
Format: Audio CD
Californian songstress, Alela Diane, makes anachronistic, chilly, melancholic acoustic folk, singing for today with the voice of a bygone generation. Tapping into the same sultry, sexy, oppressively humid, tone that Eva Cassidy evoked, Alela plays tumbledown porch music like a broken, abused, fallen angel, whistling an ironic mirthless ditty to her finger-plucked dirge.

To Be Still further explores Alela's ability to bring butterflies to bellies, and with this new release you can almost track her transformation from homegrown local singer/songwriter to touring recording artist. Right from the get-go, first track, Dry Grass & Shadows, laden with it's country steels and indelible sense of wide open plains, finds us pulling out of some backwater truck-stop at 2am, leaving Barstow on Interstate 15, head resting against the glass, Alela's songs of desolation and still waters ringing in our ears.

In the wake of anti-folk and all those who have assimilated the guise of folk musician, Alela Diane's record seems genuine, bare, honest. It's not tinted with the cynical, affected pseudo-psychedelia of recent folk outpourings, feeling more like a long ramble through cornfields and across babbling brooks with a mysterious, beautiful, simple stranger, rather than an evening snorting nutmeg off a rusty cooker with some charlatan in a tie-dyed kaftan. Do you see what I mean?

She's a musically literate Scout Niblett, a fledgling Nina Nastasia, a lone rival to Anni Rossi for release of the month. She's really rather good.

J Capeling
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