Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
From golden strings and silver boughs isn't how Alela Diane was created. She wasn't - despite all sorts of indications that would support the claim - born of immaculate conception, for it would seem that no person of flesh and blood could birth such a mild and insightful creature as the Nevada City, Calif., songstress.
She has a face that is every bit as young as it should be according to a birth date, but holds years, like a pitcher or a sponge. She has a heart that, sight unseen, could take up all the space from the neck down to the beltline. It could be that large and it could probably model, walking the runway in heels as such a pure heart. It probably leaves room enough for a small bird stomach and tiny bird lungs and kidneys, crunched happily up against the walls of her sides.
We've said it before and we'll probably say it many more times before someone or some thing pulls the plug on us, that she's special. She is a vision and a voice that is unaltered by conditions and yet she, like the grapes that grow in the vineyards that spring from the earth all around her home, she is a product of the before and what was even before that. Her songs taste, just as the ripening grapes do, of all that was grown in the soil before it. Her songs taste of ancestry and family trees, young children dangling from those trees, falling right into middle age and past that, into dying years. Her youth has been spent, with a lap cat where it belongs, sucking all of the experience and dynamics from those who raised her.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about The Antiques that oftentimes that which is ancient or just of a standard olden age is looked at as valuable without just cause, assumed to be worthwhile for the accrued knowledge and time. The same thought doesn't apply to Diane and her debut album The Pirate's Gospel, which is an achievement in the proper embrace of the way and by whom you were reared. A new song, recorded here for the first time, "Age Old Blue," has the pixie singing, "The sea beneath the cliff/Is the blue in my mother's eyes/It came from the blue in her mother's eyes/Thrown on down the line." It's one of about a thousand references to a mother or a father - presumably her mother and her father. She dreams of having a daughter just like her mother did, picturing it as a lucky stroke and a beautiful wonder. If that daughter turns out the way Diane did, it would be, starting the cycle all over again.
When she played here in town a few months ago, she did so at a very lightly attended coffeehouse, where the baristas were dicks enough to clean their machines and loudly bumble with their equipment as she and her boyfriend played quietly - without amps or microphones - on the small stage. In the middle of the small crowd was a table made up of two elderly couples who seemed completely out of place. Diane commented at one point that a little birdie had told her that one of the two couples was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that night. She congratulated them, they said thank you and then she said, "I have no idea what 50 years feels like." But I think she does. I think that she lived that before, through those aged blue eyes, through an old soul that may have gone by a different name, but goes by Alela now.