Drama, Intimacy, Controversy – it’s all here on the new album from Ashland, Oregon’s finest singer/songwriter – Alice Di Micele
Release Date: 22nd April 2022
Label: Alice Otter Music
Formats: CD / Digital
You may well be aware of Alice DiMicele and, if you are, you will no doubt be waiting impatiently to welcome her new album, Every Seed We Plant. A native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, Alice relocated to Southern Oregon in the mid-eighties and her musical output has been pretty prolific ever since. Noted for the range of her vocal stylings, which can encompass gentle intimacy and assertive boldness – often in the same passage of the same song – Every Seed We Plant is Alice’s sixteenth album of original material – and it’s wonderful!
Born into a musical family, Alice has been making music all her life, whether performing in school choirs and bands, fronting her own rock band at the age of fifteen, playing the coffeehouses of upstate New York and New Jersey, making that string of albums that started with her debut release Make A Change in 1988 or sharing the world’s stages with a who’s who of quality music – including Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Steve Winwood, Richie Havens and Bob Weir. Her songwriting often confronts issues such as LGBT rights, war, persecution and the environmental crisis head-on, in a style that draws on influences from pop, jazz, blues, rock and roll as well as rootsy American folk, and the result is quite breathtaking.
Back in 2017, Alice linked up with producer Bret Levick whilst mixing her One With the Tide album, and Levick is back as producer and collaborator for this latest offering, along with a stellar cast of supporting musicians, including the great Skip Edwards on keyboards and pedal steel, Gene Black on electric guitars and Barry Phillips on cello. The sound is as rich as you’ll expect, suitably dramatic in places, occasionally sleazy and frequently intimate. Indeed, Every Seed We Plant is an album that has just about everything.
The rich, bluesy For Granted, a co-write between Alice and Bret, gets the show on the road. With a structure reminiscent of I’d Rather Go Blind, Alice delivers an assertive vocal that melts into gentle pleading as she hits the unfeasibly high notes in the song’s “Baby please spend a little time with me” chorus. Skip’s organ solo is marvelous too.
On Every Seed We Plant, Alice explores a gamut of emotions, ranging from grief and desperation to confident optimism and overwhelming intimacy. Long Dry Winter, a song that explores “…the [sense of] grief, loss and depression that many people feel these days” is perhaps the album’s bleakest expression of any such emotion. Alice delivers another strong vocal as the band provide a jazzy backing that is suitably ponderous and dramatic. In contrast, the light, bouncy Free offers a message of hope and happiness, to an arrangement that manages to be both poppy and sophisticated.
Alone – one of the album’s two singles – is a personal favourite. It’s another stark song of loss of loneliness delivered to a pared-back backing of acoustic guitar and some lovely cello from Barry Phillips. The desolation of the lyric is captured perfectly in the “Alone, Alone, Alone, Alone, Alone” refrain that Alice sings with a passion that is almost heartbreaking. By way of another startling contrast, the bright, sparkly Sunrise is the album’s closest thing to a straight pop song. Jangly guitars, a shuffling rhythm and some awesome touches of pedal steel from Skip had me whistling along, and Alice’s vocal evokes the spirit of Karen Carpenter.
Rise, a country-tinged power ballad, is another album highlight. Almost anthemic, with a positive, hopeful lyric that offers encouragement to rise above our troubles, it’s a song full of passion and topped off with some with excellent, soaring guitar from Gene Black. Alice plays acoustic guitar and dulcimer on Communication, probably the album’s most intimate song. The lyrics (“Communication is a skill I’ve yet to master, so I’m trying to tell you in a song…”) convey a message that we can all relate to and the song builds nicely as the band join in, progressively and discretely.
The tragic, harrowing story of Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68 year-old retired marine from White Plains, New York, who was tasered and shot by police who forcibly entered his house after he had accidentally activated the medical alert pendant he wore around his neck, is recounted in Dispatch. The full band adds an appropriate level of gravitas as the tragic story unfolds and voice recordings from the actual incident add an edge that is thoroughly chilling.
The rejection of greed and populist over-simplification is the message in Jersey, a compulsive rocker and another album highlight, before the wonderfully sleazy, bluesy Sweet Elaine delivers its humorous, reassuring message of finding a purpose to life by adopting a dog. Peppered with more excellent guitar from Gene, it’s a solid rocker that avoids absolutely any over-sentimentality.
The title track, Every Seed, brings this excellent album to a close. The song was inspired by Alice’s dear friend, Agnes Pilgrim Baker, an elder of the Oregon-based Takelma Tribe of Native Americans. Alice explains how the song came about: “It was written on the way to Grandma Aggie’s memorial. The song overtook me, it flowed out of me like Grandma was there guiding me. I wrote it, played it once, then sang it that day for her family and friends.” It’s a song with gospel flavour and a simple, hopeful message of sharing, harmony and a quest for peace and destined to become a live staple – Bret plays some lovely guitar and it’s the perfect ending to an excellent album.
Watch the official video to Alone – one of the album’s many outstanding tracks – here: