For a second there, I thought it might be difficult for Alela Diane to top her standout performance on the Headless Heroes' recent covers concept album, The Silence Of Love. But the singer/songwriter proves to be at her best when singing her own earthy tunes inspired by the trees and tumult of life in Nevada City.
Her impressive 2006 debut, The Pirate's Gospel, and 2007's stripped-down Songs Whistled Through White Teeth 10-inch EP were just the warm-up for the bewitching display of To Be Still, which benefits from fuller instrumental backing without sacrificing any of the melancholic mystery that made her early work so captivating.
With this single self-produced masterstroke, Alela Diane has effectively shaken off all the ill-fitting labels of "new weird America" and "freak folk" and given notice that a warmly expressive and unique voice has arrived with stories to tell.
Top track: The Ocean
Alela Diane opens for Blitzen Trapper at the Horseshoe February 21.