october 2008

Angela Desveaux
Thrill Jockey

With obvious debts to Lucinda Williams and the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins, Angela Desveaux lights out for some frankly personal territory on her second album, The Mighty Ship. Despite singing in a light, airy voice, she musters quite enough assertiveness, thank you, to make her points emphatically, especially when addressing the particulars of a turbulent relationship (as in the guitar-driven, Blondie-ish rocker, "Hide from You," when she ever-so-sweetly kisses off a lover with, "don't want to let you down/but I don't want to live your lifestyle/you found your way in/and silently I will sneak out"), as she is wont to do on several occasions here. Working with a tight trio and playing rhythm guitar herself, Desveaux frames her songs largely in folk- and country-tinged soundscapes that break out into some perfectly fierce rock 'n' roll from time to time, and gives guitarist Mike Feuerstack wide latitude to establish his instrument as a complementary voice to her own with measured, richly textured soloing. Producer Dave Draves (who's done exemplary work with a number of musicians, especially Kathleen Edwards) rightly shapes an atmospheric soundscape for Desveaux's stories, keeping the instruments swirling around the vocals but never overwhelming them; that sense of restraint well serves the mood of the texts, but when there's an opportunity to broaden it out, Draves does, with perfect symmetry: luxuriate in the atmospheric, funereal horn lines deployed so subtly in the otherwise twang-rich title track, a touching story song about a woman who loses her husband at sea (based on the experiences of Desveaux's grandmother) that is a model of powerful narrative mated to majestic music. From wondering whether coupling is any kind of desirable state (consider the drowsy musings in the laconic "Joining Another," wherein Desveaux cautions, "something about joining another/that makes you feel sad/leavin' part of yourself...make sure you know where you're goin'...") to chronicling a girl's anxious quest at self-definition while trying to properly read all the signs along that road in the furious, propulsive rock of "For Design," Angela Desveaux casts a sharp on an unsettled age. Live with The Mighty Ship for awhile, get your sea legs, and it becomes a powerful, memorable journey begging repeat visits.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024