Alela Diane

The Pirate's Gospel

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First released in 2004 as a private CD-R run then later re-released formally in 2006, the softly spooked-out acid folk of The Pirate's Gospel is a captivating debut from Alela Diane, whose enthusiasm and ability for a then-extremely-fresh learner on guitar is quite something. Recorded by her father, who also helps perform on many tracks along with other friends and family members, the disc showcases Alela Diane's knack for gentle, immediate melodies and her fine voice, possessed of a hint of twang that suggests a combination of Dusty Springfield and Kristin Hersh, with a rich maturity beyond her years. The high and lonesome catch on songs like "Foreign Tongue" and "Clickity Clack" is quite something, while the interplay of vocals and guitar on the latter is particularly beautiful. Like her contemporary Larkin Grimm, she brings older forms of music to life with vivid performances, sometimes striking imagery, and a love for surprising little touches, such as the line "And a choir of little children sing along" from "Pieces of String," which is, indeed, sung by two young kids. The title track may just be the standout among them all with its low, moody backing vocals and an appropriate hint of sea shanty atmosphere in the chorus, while guest banjo from Matt Gottschalk adds a further tinge of mysteriousness. It's important to note that the 2006 version of the album differs greatly from the private release -- the sequencing is somewhat altered, while a number of tracks are dropped, and a separate one, "Can You Blame the Sky?," is added. Both versions of the album are excellent but the earlier CD-R release is worth seeking out if one enjoys the later edition, especially for such fine songs as "Gypsy Eyes" and "Heavy Walls."

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