Baby Dee – A Book of Songs for Anne Marie

Baby Dee – A Book of Songs for Anne Marie

If you’re familiar with any kind of lieder, or art songs, then you can definitely appreciate the kind of music that is built around poetic verses, operatic voices and subtle, timely calculated accompaniment. One of my favorites was Schubert (check out his Erlkönig if you’ve never had the pleasure) and his impressive ability at combining the implausible into a dream-like fantasy – or nightmare, depending on your mood – that felt chillingly real and well, entirely possible. But such sort of music hasn’t truly been attempted, let alone accepted, outside of the classical world.

Then again, it all depends on the musician you’re working with. Most are in it for the laborious joy it can result in and even if the small percentage of music now being made should be deleted and forgotten, there is hope. Someone like Baby Dee continues to give everything she has inside of her into her music. A harpist and accordion player, she’s often overlooked for another harpist also on the Drag City label but don’t be fooled, her talents are just as ranging and downright fantastic.

With all of that said, her new album A Book of Songs for Anne Marie is just that, a collection of lieder that is as equally moving, as it is musical. Comprising all of her strengths into something that could be heralded as classical music, Dee works within the music, reaching new heights. With the careful hand of Maxim Moston to taper and cavern all of her sounds, not only does everything come off as the expression of an artist coming onto her own but it’s an astounding set of excellent music, period.

Dee fits perfectly on a label like Drag City that seems fully set on allowing their artists to reign in on adventurous tasks. Just look at how sprawling Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s career has been over the past decade: he’s found time to release album after album, with collaborations and an R. Kelly cover sprinkled about. But what makes Dee stand out is not just her voice (a quivering source of strength that evokes Antony’s fragile voice), or even her talents as an instrumentalist (regardless of which instrument she is helming they are each flourishing and alive) but her presence. Each song, brand new in demeanor and outlook, is cradled by a source of attention that not only brings out every detail but ensures that every crevice will not only be heard but felt.

And it all plays out like a book too, fit with an introduction, a driving middle section and an ending that is both somber and resolute. If there’s one thing she’s sure of is her ability at crafting substantial albums, filled with stories and vivid imagery. Don’t be mistaken either, the music is easily performed and directed: this is a sincere collection of songs that sit around, on top of and underneath stories decorated with the most understated of arrangements. But each subsequent listen will reveal more and more nuances that will only leave you searching for more.

It’s certainly a new approach for Baby Dee and one that works wonders for her. Artists tend to reach out every so often but it all depends on where and how they land that will eventually find them successful or not. As challenging as something like A Book of Songs for Anne Marie must have been, its story starts and ends with its creator. She’s creative enough, talented enough and with enough support around her, it’s a no-brainer.