Mare Wakefield is yet another of those talented writers and performers whose albums tumble into Blabber HQ with increasing regularity. Whether its something in the water or just plain old talent a good percentage of them have a firm grasp on what makes a good album, a good song and the chops to deliver the goods. In the pantheon of female (and this goes for the guys also) performers in the Americana field there are the stars (you know who they are), the hardy perennials who will always get a mention and then the workers at the coalface. Time and again I’m astounded and impressed by the quality of the music produced by people I’ve never heard of, who plough their own field and come up with the goods. Wakefield is yet another one of these.
Based in Nashville this is her fifth release. A vibrant and impassioned singer she can deliver straightforward confessional songs then delve into a big band arrangement with sassy horns and a great sense of swing. Wicked is one such song, deliciously salacious it conjures up rain swept neon lit passions while Red Dress has a New Orleans shuffle with stride piano. The central song on the album is About the War where Wakefield sings about her dreams of tending to wounded soldiers and of watching generals, safe behind the lines, drinking fine wines. In a brave move she allows a “long haired hippie from Galilee” to enter her dream to tell her to forgive them but the dream and the wars go on. Reading this one might think of the hippie tendency to regard Jesus as “one of them” but Wakefield avoids any such seventies mawkishness in what is really a very good song.
The album ends with the eight minutes long “bonus” of Dear J where Wakefield ditches her fine back up musicians (who include Will Kimbrough and Fats Kaplin, two musicians who seem to be appearing with increasing regularity recently). An open letter in the style of L. Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat it’s a wordy recollection of times spent with an old flame, some regretted, an acknowledgement that time moves on and that what was meant to be doesn’t always happen. A great end to what is really quite a fine album.