Poet, spoken word, rap, political commentator and all-around wordsmith with the voice of an angel and the tongue of a playwright she dazzles and destroys while weaving her tales. Her latest release, “Castor, The Twin” dropping this week is a work of art on several levels.
Ten of the eleven tracks are reworked from previous releases; the last track “The Beekeeper” is the first single off her new album full-length release expected in 2012. Truly something to hear, Dessa finds rhythm in words that seem impossible to connect. The arrangements for these reworked songs provide a strong vehicle for her narratives, the arrangements inspired by the crowd reaction during live performances with her backing trio Sean McPherson (bass), Dustin Kiel (guitar and piano), and Joey Van Phillips (drums and percussion). Recorded with a live ensemble including stand-up bass, viola, grand piano, vibraphone, mandolin and timpani the sound of the entire is album is full and rich, big enough to fill a music hall while still casting a spotlight on the singer herself.
“Dixon’s Girl” is a jaw-dropping number that twists and turns and tells a heartbreaking tale with simple words and a chorus that cries out in empathy. Dessa’s voice is something between a sultry blues artist and Regina Spektor, balancing between the two with ease and an ethereal glow. Brutal in her attack the entire number pours empathy, respect and hate into a glass and serves a cocktail one will not soon forget.
Storytelling and imagery are two aspects of songwriting, “Mineshaft” could be the best example of both in the last few years. This story is not a new one, but so well articulated that the pain might as well be painted in red across the sky. At some points in the song it’s difficult to tell if this is truly a biographical experience or a Shakesperaean tragedy. Eloquent in it’s delivery, simply in content and so catchy it’s hard not to play it over, and over and over this song will reach out and grab you by the spine.
As a member of the Minneapolis based Doomtree Collective, Dessa has collaborated with talent of the highest caliber, but this album is her chance to shine. Even those who shy from rap will love this album, part rap, part spoken-word, part poetry, and something else that can’t be defined – it is one of the best albums of the year.
by Meredith Underhill