The Roadhouse Preview: Alela Diane @ Seattle Folk Festival, Town Hall, 12/12

Alela Diane during KEXP's broadcast at ME Television during 2009 SXSW
photo by Jim Bennett

The time is right for Alela Diane.

But more importantly, for us fans of Alela Diane. A new record is in the can, and this Sunday, December 12, she will appear as part of the KEXP sponsored First Annual Seattle Folk Festival at Town Hall.

The Roadhouse radio listeners have heard Alela’s song progression over the first two albums, and pressed an ear to the radio during her amazing in-studio back in May 2009 (just her and then fiancé, now husband, Tom Bevitori) and it’s pretty clear that we are in that moment. A moment when a 27 year-old comes into her own artistically amidst the backdrop of a burgeoning indie-folk scene; one that just seems to be getting better and better.

When I play Alela’s music on the show, I’ve noticed that her talent is undeniable. Her ability to tap into a rich world of organic natural imagery inspired by her environments of hometown Nevada City and her new home in Portland is what makes her music so special. And she lays it down with a quiet intimacy and a voice that’s hauntingly beautiful.

She first popped on my radar with the release of Pirate’s Gospel, a homemade recording that she made with her dad Tom Menig. The self-release was wrapped in a paper bag with hand stitched lace. “I had more time then,” she says. The record got a fair amount of attention, and because of its quirkiness and post-modern sea shanty(!) title track, Alela was thrown into the Freak Folk dumpster which she never quite understood or endorsed, saying “it kinda bums me out to be honest.”

But it was her follow-up that separated her from the freaks.

2009’s To Be Still (my #3 LP for that year) clearly signaled the arrival of an artist to be noticed with it’s fuller sound and more detailed production. Her music is reminiscent of Kate Wolf, Karen Dalton and other great female folk singers of the 70s, but with an undeniably fresh spin. I still play it frequently (this week as a matter of fact).

The as of yet untitled new record is slated for a spring release and when asked about it she said:

It’s a bit of a jaunt down a new path. It’s the sound of me with a band – and is the first album I’ve made with the direction of a producer. We worked with a guy named Scott Litt, who is amazing to work with. He helped to facilitate the creation of something exciting and like nothing I’ve ever done. The songs on this record also feel different -- many of them were co-written by my husband & I, which is something I had never done before. Having some one else come up with the chord changes provided me with the opportunity to create melodies that would not have arrived otherwise. Much of the lyrical content on the record was written while touring To Be Still, and as a result, there is a lot of road in there. I also tend to write about my mom relentlessly, or so she likes to point out -– and there are two of those songs. Death is another topic that snuck on -– but not without the light needed to balance it.

I can’t wait to see Alela Diane this Sunday with Wild Divine as part of The Seattle Folk Festival. It’s going to be a good time.

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