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Baby Dee, "Safe Inside the Day"

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cover image Baby Dee's latest album and her first for Drag City is somewhat of a departure from her previous work in a lot of ways, yet many of the new songs still retain the fragility that made her earlier material so intimate. Backed by a band of admirers that includes Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Bill Breeze, John Contreras, and Andrew W.K., her music comes alive like never before.

Drag City

One of the reasons this album works so well is that Dee's supporting cast never takes the spotlight. Instead, their contributions bring a whole new dimension to songwriting that was already great to begin with. These songs take us through a variety of moods, from the triumph of the title track that opens the album to the somber yet beautiful "You'll Find Your Footing" that closes it. While these pieces and others, like "A Compass of the Light" and "Flowers on the Tracks," are delicate compositions evocative of her earlier work, there are also songs that pulse with a newfound vitality.

"The Earlie King" is striking with its strutting rhythm, Caribbean-influenced bass line, and eerie violin sweeps. Coming across like something spilling out of a cabaret in a dangerous seaport, "The Only Bones That Show" is raucous and buoyant despite opening with the gritty lines: "I'm looking out from eyes that roll back white and I talk in tongues of blood and bite/And the only song I know is the calling of the crow." The enthusiasm is infectious, making this one of the album's standout tracks. Similarly irresistible is "The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities," in which Dee relates a childhood story about neighborhood thugs who demolish a piano yet can't destroy the harp inside it. "Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)" is an unusually bawdy song about ways to mistreat an albino, amusing lyrics that are further enhanced by Baby Dee's barrelhouse piano.

Besides venturing into new musical styles, Dee also challenges herself as a singer by varying her delivery style from song to song or even within a single track, and her voice has never sounded so confident. There are certainly some dark lyrical passages throughout these songs, but her exuberance and sense of humor provide a good balance. This is a fantastic album that should both thrill old fans and make plenty of new ones.

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Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2008 03:40  


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