Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Pirate's Gospel - Alela Diane

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I'm not what you would call a fan of "singer-songwriter with her acoustic guitar" style music. That's not to degenerate every single singer-songwriter out there who has to play that way because they can't afford a band, it's just the way I am. (Witness the fact that I've played KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza just the ONCE).

So really, it stands to reason that I wouldn't like Alela Diane. The Pirate's Gospel was originally recorded back in 2004, with little more than Alela, her guitar and various family members adding a bit of singing/hand clapping/other background noises. Even now with an official release (in it's first incarnation few outside Alela's family and friends heard it) there has been no great "remastering" or "remixing." This is music without adornment.

And to be honest I wasn't expecting all that much from it when I put it in the CD player. I can be notoriously quick to reach for the skip track button at times, but it was about five or six tracks in when I realised that I hadn't reached for that once. And I didn't throughout an entire listen through. Which is some kind of recommendation in itself.

On the one level this is gentle, acoustic folk but like all good folk music it's power is in it's story's. Each song is a little gem from a different world.

I have to say that my favourite songs are the ones that most lift from the sparse "girl and her guitar" formula. Pieces of String, is enhanced by the cute accompaniment of a some children singing whilst the title track has a low and moody backing vocal that transports it onto an entirely different level.

I shouldn't pass this review without recognising Alela's wonderful voice; it's surprising to realise that she's only a twenty-something on her label debut. There's a "lived in" feeling to her voice that, once again, ensures that proceedings are lifted to another level.

Admittedly, this isn't an album which is for everyone. A lot of people will find that this isn't their thing at all but if the idea of an acoustic folk sound with some country and blues influences showing through sounds your kind of thing, then you need to check this out right away. And as mentioned previously, if it can turn my mind then it may well turn any open mind as well.

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