The Department of the West
Quality Americana With a Dash of Alt. Country Around the Edges.
With so much going on at the moment; this album nearly got lost ……. as I’d misfiled it.
Thankfully last night I had a spare couple of hours and decided to hunt it down on my laptop …… and there it was in the ‘Unknown Album’ file alongside 13 others ……. sorry guys and girls.
Anyhoot; Deborah Crooks is a singer-songwriter from California and is a member of a band called Bay Station; but this is her fourth solo album.
That’s all you really need to know, isn’t it?
A sorrowful guitar and pedal-steel combo combine on opening track Lit By The Mystery a graceful backing to Ms Crooks’ world weary vocals making the song send a shiver down your back, in the way Lucinda and Margo Timmins did the first time you heard them.
I don’t use those two singers as examples lightly; as this album will sit very comfortably alongside both in my collection; and the tragically beautiful Honey and The Other Side could both be mistaken for ‘lost songs’ by either; but you would find yourself doubting your ears; as Deborah’s voice doesn’t exactly sound like either; more ‘tattered velvet’ in texture and expression.
There’s an effortless finesse to the way these songs are constructed; and I’m sure there will be minimal lighting when they play the two pertinently observed song about Native American History are sung in concert; What The Land Will Tell You and the title track Department Of The West as both have a delicate melody but a very powerful message that will and should be listened to in silence.
I’ve struggled a couple of times here with my descriptions as I don’t want these gorgeous songs to sound ‘preachy’ or ‘worthy’ as that couldn’t be any further from the truth …….. they; and the jaunty River Stones are all what Americana music is all about for me; imaginative, cinematic, informative and last but not least …… entertaining.
Let The River Do The Running sits comfortably in both Americana and Alt. Country camps, with its rustic imagery being a metaphor for a struggling relationship; and the band sound as if they’ve been unearthed in a boarded up roadside diner somewhere West of Vegas and dusted off and plugged in; such is their authenticity here and on just about every other other track.
There are a couple of songs I’ve already mentioned that could easily be my Favourite Song; as well as the stunning The Other Side, but I’m going for Long Roads as it piqued my attention last night and still sounded stunning this morning; and now I’ve discovered what it’s about ……. phew……….. Deborah Crooks is one subtle songwriter!!
I’m not going to spoil the surprise ……. find it yourself and listen as it unravels over several plays ……. then you can thank me.
Yet again I was feeling a bit jaded and considering taking a sabbatical over the holidays; but discovering this gem has restored my faith in the Power of Music …… and I’ve now got three more of her albums to discover as well as her other band Bay Station!
It’s only Rock n Roll ……. but I love it.
Released 6th December 2019