Alela Diane takes hippie-dippie too far

First 50 people to order to order “To Be Still” get a free bag of tea.

Photo courtesy Rough Trade Records

Ashley Goetz

Photo courtesy Rough Trade Records

ARTIST: Alela Diane ALBUM: âÄúTo Be StillâÄù LABEL: Rough Trade WHERE: Cedar Cultural Center WHEN: Feb. 18 Alela Diane has long, ropey chestnut hair that her promotional pictures feature blowing about in an ocean breeze or draped across her shoulders. She could easily be one of those barefoot, women artists in lots of turquoise and ankle-dusting prairie skirts who hum Joni Mitchell while daubing tree-laden landscapes with dusky purple paint. DianeâÄôs second release, âÄúTo Be Still,âÄù further secures her place in the genre of makeup-free lady painters with tickets to Lilith Fair and a canvas of slide guitars and banjos. But what sets her apart is her smoky, alt-country Dusty Springfield -with-a-warble vocals. DianeâÄôs sound is folksy and plaintive, like a well-worn Neil Young album doing the rounds on a vintage record player. Diane counts among her major influences âÄúmy parents singing in the kitchen,âÄù which probably gives her music the lull that could bring children to sleep on a wave of string arrangements. That being said, âÄúTo Be StillâÄù is forgettable because it floats along like a nondescript average day on old-time AM radio. DianeâÄôs MySpace is the best place to clue into her musical aesthetic; itâÄôs a collage of photos of her nomadic folk-chick existence from Nevada to Portland. The music video for the albumâÄôs best track, âÄúWhite DiamondsâÄù shows our troubadour-ess wandering through a forest with dark, middle-parted hair tied half back like a Woodstock participant, watching a paper boat float across the water. Though DianeâÄôs music has been classified as âÄúfreak folkâÄù and âÄúpsychedelic folk,âÄù much like fellow tree-hugger Devendra Banhart, her sound is in fact much more traditional âÄô60s-era âÄúnature folkâÄù than anything else. Civil War violins mourn over the strains of âÄúWhite Diamond,âÄù and all guitars are finger-picked. She rhapsodizes about alder trees âÄúwhispering soft and low,âÄù tells stories about girls walking near the ocean, âÄúdigging up glass bottles.âÄù What makes âÄúTo Be StillâÄù so underwhelming and nearly grating are its words. In âÄúLady Divine,âÄù Diane sings, âÄúTheir children are all grown now/mortar and pestle they grind.âÄù It goes on, riddled with abstract phrases: âÄúThose songs whistled through our teeth.âÄù The lyrics of her songs sound like the poetry of a womenâÄôs studies class. Without DianeâÄôs vocals, the music itself is lush and lovely, and would be suited well to Alison Krauss . âÄúTo Be StillâÄù wouldnâÄôt be out of place on a particularly heartstring-tugging episode of âÄúGreyâÄôs Anatomy,âÄù and listening to it on repeat in a car post-breakup might jerk out a couple tears, since most of the songs are about the sweetest and lightest of things, innocence and nature. Diane joins the leagues of vaguely hot folk-chicks like Joanna Newsom before her and Vashti Bunyan before Newsom. There are critics and fans alike who adore the quirkily-voiced Newsom and Bunyan, but the folk-chick is either an acquired taste or an all-consuming passion. ThereâÄôs little ground in between, and Diane might be a good transitional artist.