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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just beautiful,
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.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Beauty,
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. The themes of nature, so prominent in her debut are once again ubiquitous in her follow-up. Even when the themes turn to relationships, family and friends as in the `Rocky Racoon'-esque plod of Age Old Blues, accompanied by some hoary old wolf-hound vocals, the analogies always wind themselves back to the intimate knowledge of her Nevada homelands.
To Be Still is a strong follow-up to an excellent debut. Diane's voice still powerfully touching, while the traditional compositions add an extra dimension to her craft. While the album sometimes feels that it lacks the intimacy and endearing charm of her debut, there is no doubt that these qualities will emerge with time. This is a timeless-sounding record and whether you're a fan or a stranger drawn in by the hype, this is certainly worth a purchase.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lady Divine with "those songs for children to sing ",
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. If I am being hyper picky, which by that start to the sentence you can tell I am , I would say that the album is a touch one dimensional and lacks variety -the middle suite of songs especially.
To Be Still is still an album I would heartily recommend . It has an intimacy and ambience that is hugely refreshing in these harum scarum times. It,s like Alela Diane has taken a step back from the world around her and decided to just concentrate on the things she deems to be important , the things worth singing about. That's probably why this album works so well. The line goes on the lovely album closer "Lady Divine " :"those songs for children to sing ". These are not kiddie songs but they are certainly worth singing and more importantly well worth hearing .
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alela Diane's still waters run valley deep.,
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.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure beauty,
In the space of one short weekend this has gone from being a good purchase to being a revelation to being one of my 'desert island discs' to being the songs I want to hear when I'm on my death bed.
If you don't know her work it's a bit like a not annoying Joan Baez with good songs, it mixes Kristin Hersh with Iron & Wine and then dips it all in bluegrass molasses, but the voice is hers, and it's just beautiful.
5.0 out of 5 stars The loveliest of them all:),
For anybody who doesn't know Alela Diane but likes Emmylou Harris, I should say that she's just as good if only touch better. I know that's bold to say but it is still very true. How she has avoided stardom is beyond explanation except for the fact that we live in a shallow society who can't appreciate real gems.
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary album,
To be still is an astonishingly beautiful album, at once both heartwrenching and optimistic. Every song is quite brilliant. Alela has a captivating, entrancing voice, the music is gentle, atmospheric, sometimes even spooky but always absolutely wonderful. Just when one fabulous song finishes, an even better one starts. I have played the album 30 times in a row (literally) over the last three days and it is still getting better. Like another reviewer, I have had to rewrite my long standing 'Desert Island Discs' list after hearing this. My review sounds over the top, but this CD really is that good.
4.0 out of 5 stars country music? not quite!,
Guitar twangs that evoke typical American country music soon greet the listener here, but don't be put off - this lovely album is much more than that. Here is music that evokes the American frontier, eeking a living out of 'borrowed land' - after, that is, the original native peoples had been driven out and slaughtered by the white settlers (us). A lovely lilting voice takes you through a collection of earthy and folky songs, with a few fine added touches here and there, and what you get overall is something refreshingly different. Despite - or including - a seeming fixation with rows of straight white teeth, the lyrics harken back to a bygone age, and the musical arrangements complement the evocation beautifully. This is easy listening and original, with the twangs throughout to remind you of wide open spaces and new lands. Worth a speculative purchase - give it a good few listens before judging, and let its nuances show themselves.
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a "MUST HAVE",
I really love this album. Alela Diane sing like an angel, her voice is so tender and the music have a great sound.
The only thing that I don't like too much is the case. Is a cardbone one. Probably a great turn for the pollution but is really difficult to do not rip the paper trying to slip out the cd. I trying to be very careful but I alredy damage it... the best thing to do, is to use a plastic case (not the hard plastic one). Other than that is a great purchase.
5.0 out of 5 stars Usually not my thing.,
While I might not have a real bases for comparison I still feel compelled to recommend this.
It's soothing and soulful, not the most cheerful of music I admit but its moodiness doesn't bring you down too much.
It's mournful and beautiful.
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