Alana Davis

Surrender Dorothy

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Alana Davis left Elektra in frustration after the label failed to effectively promote her sophomore effort Fortune Cookies. But the album itself struggled with direction -- it jumped from acoustic pop similar to her breakthrough 1997 cover of Ani DiFranco's "32 Flavors" ("Save the Day"), to the Neptunes-produced, 21st century R&B of "Bye Bye." 2005's Surrender Dorothy is much, much more cohesive, and a great statement of where Alana Davis is today. It's issued through her own Tigress imprint; she's the sole producer and arranger; she wrote every song but for two covers; and the band is stripped-down and easy behind her guitar and rich vocal work. "Letter" reintroduces Davis' soulful singing over an understated, but creative arrangement, while the crackling electric guitar and bold, layered vocals of "Benefit" suggest her as the female Ben Harper. There are laughs left in throughout the record, and Davis makes wordless noises that never sound needless. She could handle the hand-fluttering contemporary R&B aesthetic, but why? Something like "Vision" is way more fun to sing, where the lingering ends of her phrases flirt with wah-wah guitar and live percussion, and she adds some "Do-do-do"'s that are perfectly tossed off. Surrender Dorothy isn't slick, and that's on purpose. "Wide Open" returns to a rambling acoustic pop sound, "Jaded [Goodbye]" incorporates Stevie Wonder notes into its bright, searching interludes, and though it needs more cowbell, Davis' cover of the Blue Öyster Cult classic figures out how to blend the original's star-crossed fatalism with an airy acoustic arrangement and the casual quality of a Bonnaroo jam session. Davis is incredibly comfortable throughout all of this. She never over-sings, and her songs blend everything from vintage soul and wronged-woman R&B to Joni Mitchell and adult alternative pop with an ease that accentuates Surrender Dorothy's inviting nature.

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