Album Review: Alela Diane & Wild Divine by Alela Diane
Very Good, Based on 6 Critics
Pitchfork - 75 Based on rating 7.5/10
A lot has happened in the two years since Alela Diane released her breakout album, the simultaneously imaginative and earthy To Be Still. Among other things, she married her bass player-turned-guitarist, Tom Bevitori, and saw her touring band gel into something a bit more prominent and permanent-- namely, Wild Divine, which includes Bevitori, guitarist Tom Menig (Diane's father), bass player Jonas Haskins, and drummer Jason Merculief. Her third album reflects these developments in its more robust, full-band sound as well as in the writing credits she shares with her husband and father.
After releasing a pair of hushed, intimate folk records, Alela Diane beefs up her sound with Alela Diane & the Wild Divine, an album that owes as much credit to Diane’s newly expanded backing band as the songwriter herself. These ten songs paint a familiar pastoral picture -- there’s much talk of horses, birds, highways, and open landscapes -- but they do so with a wider brush, coloring Diane’s once-stark music with keyboards, light percussion, and electric guitar. She’s a vintage California girl, with a voice that’s steeped in Laurel Canyon twang and lyrics that split the difference between flower child optimism and poetry grad cynicism.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
Unlike fellow Nevada City folkies Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart, [a]Alela Diane[/a] possesses neither the head-mangling lyrical ambition nor weed-woven whimsy. She has instead spent the best part of a decade spinning uncluttered pastoralism.Granted, this record is a little hardier than previous material; the drums have got louder, the twangs have got twangier and brief, woody organ flourishes fleck proceedings now and again. It’s [b]‘The Wind’[/b] that marks the album, though – an ode to a murdered friend, it flutters along in a rush of banjo- topped catharsis.
During a previous era in American rock history, there were female singer-songwriters who came out of the folk movement, such as Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, who voiced generational concerns in complex poetic and musical styles that transcended the pop fare of their time. Alela Diane is one of the most important new artists to follow in their footsteps. But this isn’t the ‘60s and while Diane’s perspective may be distinctly female, she’s more of a grrrl singer than a girl singer.
For her third album, US folk songwriter Alela Diane has given her beefed-up band a delicate new name – Wild Divine – and her traditional sound a glossy pop finish. Joining hubby Tom Bevitori and dad Tom Menig on guitar, bassist Jonas Haskins and drummer Jason Merculief weave the rhythm of the road through Diane's equally restless tales of hope, death and strange women. Musically, her new direction is colourful, with electric guitar brazen against pedal steel and slide, retro keyb oards shimmering next to bluegrass-hued banjo and accordion.
A vivid selection of songs underscored by a bittersweet poetry. Mike Barnes 2011 Alela Diane’s debut album, The Pirate’s Gospel (self-released in 2004, commercially released in 2007), was a collection of vivid snapshots, musings on life, love and mortality, and contemporary fables that seemed to tap way back into collective memory. 2009’s To Be Still was cut from similar cloth, but it also suggested that Diane’s voice – sweet and strong with a hint of a yell and an expressive catch in the throat – could benefit from being pitched against something more than a spartan guitar backing.