The sumptuous sound of country soul, especially where pedal steel meets Hammond organ meets horns, can take a lot of beating. On a slightly different footing is the equally ravishing sound of folk soul or to borrow a phrase from the press supporting this new album by Alice Di Micele, acoustic groove. No two words are better phrased to describe SWIM, the latest in a long line of releases from this Oregon based artist. Right from the off this record is a constant mover using a multitude of instrumental pieces from a lengthy list of players to breathe musical life into the lyrical outpourings of Alice.
Drawing on the experience of her natural surroundings, there is a strong environmental theme to Alice’s writing and this is no more passionate in its expression than the moving protest track ‘Old Life Back’. The US are a lot further down the line with the exploratory process of fracking than the UK and thus issues have arisen for song writers to fuel (pun certainly unintended) the traditional path of championing the underdog. It has to be said Alice does this rather well with startling and emotional effect, very much in a similar style to Annabelle Chvostek.
The mood and tone of this record is supremely set in the opening track as the organ is unleashed in the gorgeous soulful number ‘Soul Fly Free’. The presence of such as precious musical commodity is only surpassed in the title track ‘Swim’ where the B3 is allowed to run amok with glorious results. The drift into funk territory is purely a tantalising taster on the album as Alice often pulls back to concentrate on more straight up folk. ‘When Jane Rides Scout’ is the prime example of this as Alice takes on a facet of love with the subtle help of Tex Mex horns. The driving style and feeling of this song is akin to some of the work emanating from Canadian artist Amanda Rheume, albeit without the brass interludes.
Alice has rubbed shoulders with many acclaimed artists over her thirty year touring career and not a moment has been wasted in fine tuning this record into an accomplished body of work. More intuitive writing takes on another environmental issue this time surrounding the Klamath River in her home state with the song ‘Schoolhouse’. ‘This Love’ demonstrates that Alice is perfectly at home addressing this age old topic in tender ballad proportions complete with the usual sombre cello sound. To supplement the nine self-penned originals that form the bulk of the content, Alice chose to cover the Grateful Dead song ‘Ripple’ and its careful rendition adds value to a record that thrives on an underlying layer of high calibre music sophistication.
This ingenious release which benefitted from the now common crowd funding source is formed into a rounded ten track album with three further numbers starting with a reworking of a song from 1994 titled ‘If I Could Move the World’. This is one of the smoother tunes on the record and the sensuous sound is repeated a couple of songs further on in the track ‘Inside’. ‘Open Road’ with its inspiration drawn from the wide expanses of the natural environment completes the set and merges sublimely into an album that succeeds in its mission to seduce your senses.
SWIM is a slice of secular spiritualism designed to educate, inspire and entertain. It showcases an artist maturing into a comfort zone, while inviting all comers along for the ride. Alice DiMicele has produced a delightful album full of many treasures to chill, marvel and ultimately feast on.