Alela Diane

About Farewell

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The first widely available release by the Nevada City-born singer/songwriter Alela Diane was a 2006 edition of The Pirate's Gospel. That record appeared in the wake of breakthrough releases by artists such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom and, as a result, shared the quirks and eccentricities of many other so-called freak folk albums of the time. Three albums on, although the songs that make up About Farewell were written during and after the ending of her seven-year relationship with Denver co-founder Tom Bevitori, here Diane betrays an assured, calm, confident, and marginally deeper-toned vocal throughout which barely resembles her Newsom-inspired delivery of The Pirate's Gospel. Perhaps closest in sound to her acclaimed 2009 release To Be Still, About Farewell has a comparatively starker production value which suits the album's somber subject matter. Gone are the lavish washes of pedal steel leaving space between Diane's intense and diary-like, but never overbearing, lyrics. While her ex-husband, Bevitori, played electric guitar in the Wild Divine -- the backing band for her uncharacteristically raucous 2011 album -- here Diane's rudimentary acoustic fingerpicking and strumming add a personal, characterful touch to an album that impresses with its honesty and integrity. There are stand-out instrumental flourishes throughout -- such as the barroom honky tonk piano of "Nothing I Can Do," the layered, Laurel Canyon vibe of "Black Sheep," and the beautifully delicate coda to opener "Colorado Blue" -- but what impresses most is Diane's measured account of her circumstances. We learn from the title track that she instigated the break-up, and we also know that we're far from scathing Blood on the Tracks territory when we hear: "The brightest lights cast the biggest shadow/So honey, I've got to let you go." "Colorado Blue" uses imagery of snow to simultaneously represent the cold finality of a relationship's end and the fresh white sheet of opportunity that it brings. Equally poetic is album-closer "Rose & Thorn" when she sings "I left those words a-hangin' like a ruined dress." While there's a similarly reflective tone throughout, it's surely not an accident that the artwork features two separate images of Diane. One image appears to study the other and that premise encapsulates About Farewell. The album's a cathartic self-study, executed without drama, during a time of major personal upheaval, and it will truly resonate with anyone who's ever found themselves at the end of a relationship.

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