Dana was born and raised in the Northern territories of the Canadian sub-Arctic, and her songwriting is inspired and influenced by the supernatural experiences of Canada’s high country. So reads the press release – and it certainly gives something of the flavour of her music, her surreal and slightly opaque imagery that’s conveyed with a delivery that’s on the quirky indie/folk-noir side of Americana (hence her appearance on Nashville’s Muddy Roots imprint for this, her third album).
Dana, with the help of producer and multi-instrumentalist Jordy Walker, uses analogue equipment and an array of old-school acoustic instruments to clothe her haunting, charmingly hope-filled lyrics: her own understated expertise on mandolin, guitar and bouzouki is thrown into relief by the textures of autoharp, banjo, celeste, marimba, glockenspiel and piano, which are underpinned oh so gently by soft-brushed drumming and upright-bass strokes, and with extra musicians on cello, violin, French horn and lap steel making atmospheric, if minimalist guest appearances.
It’s all quite magical: and slightly, subliminally hypnotic, and yet not all that easy to get a handle on at first – Dana’s songs take a while to insinuate themselves into your consciousness, it’s almost as if you need to get used to being in that spacious geographical environment and settle into its consciousness. For there’s a rather special ambience to the album, a warmly primitive yet comfortably remote aura that’s perhaps best illustrated on songs like Road To Michigan and A Lighted House, or in the eerie, almost displaced drones of closing track Full Moon Sinners.
All of the album’s dozen songs are comparatively lengthy at around the four- or five-minute mark, and need to take that time to make their point – time which you the listener will need to respect and give them, unreservedly. Another element of Dana’s music which might be found just a little disquieting (for those listeners who prefer more immediacy and an instant impact) is her vocal style, which kinda feels more akin to Beth Gibbons than pure Americana models, and while its laid-back cool mesmerises it might be felt to undersell the emotional impact of her songs – which is not necessarily a bad thing however, I hasten to add. For I’ve come to appreciate Dana’s unusual musical vision so much more over time – having lived with the album for a couple of months before penning this review. And, like the disc’s very title (taken from the song Night Sky), Dana’s imagery can be quite stunning in its own calmly composed yet tenderly skewed way.
Review by: David Kidman