Delicate ruminations make the sad times beautiful
Three years ago, soon after marrying guitarist Tom Bevitori, Alela Diane released her fourth album, ‘Alela Diane & Wild Divine’. Wild Divine were her backing band, Bevitori was part of it, and including them in the title signaled Diane’s intent to move away from the acoustic guitar music of her early albums, and into a full band setup. The Californian was no longer alone in producing her art.
Diane and Bevitori’s relationship has since fallen apart, and ‘About Farewell’ tells the full story of that and other fallouts. Tellingly, Wild Divine are not involved, and the 30-year-old’s sound has been stripped back to its earlier tone once more. Instead it’s her words that kick hardest. Opener ‘Colorado Blue’ is blunt, with the simple lyric: “When you left me”. And the title track follows, telling us: “I heard someone say that the brightest lights cast the biggest shadows, so honey I’ve got to let you go”. All of it lives in a cloud of beautiful sadness.
Partly this is created by acoustic guitar, piano and violin, which are so delicately played they’d be drowned out by a mouse’s burp. But in the main the atmosphere is conjured by Diane’s remarkable vocal. She flits between hymnal (‘Nothing I Can Do’) and ghostly (‘Hazel Street’), and on the latter track haunts her own song, repeating lyrics back to herself in a whisper as if questioning her own thoughts.
Everything about her delivery reveals a deeply poetic person. Even when singing about drunk-dialling someone on New Year’s Eve (“I phoned you up and drew you in”, on ‘I Thought I Knew’), it’s done with the elegance of a novelist. Also elegant is the way the record confines Diane’s sadness to the past. It doesn’t wallow, it reassesses. And, yeah, she’s pregnant and engaged to someone else now. So there’s a charming little lesson about riding out the bad times in there for everyone.