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. Backed by a solid country-rock band (including two guitarists who claim co-writing credits on more than half the songs), her new sound is perhaps more indebted to Nashville than the West Coast’s folk scene, but it sounds its best in the neutral territory between both camps, neither subscribing to nor rebelling against any single genre. In the weeks leading up to this album’s release, press outlets tended to focus on Diane’s new “pop-influenced sound.” The Wild Divine isn’t pop, though, and Diane’s willingness to reach beyond her freak-folk bedrock bodes well for a long career. “At the end of the day,” she croons on the album’s final track, “the song that I sing is the same.” Right on.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey