Single Subject Notebook – 2014 ( Self-released)
Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln
Many fantasize about musical fame, rising from modest beginnings to a world of nonstop smiles and open doors. Those chasing it down, like Melanie Devaney, can send us some very informative postcards from the road. "Single Subject Notebook" the third indie release from the Americana guitarist/singer/songwriter, was richly inspired by relentless touring of clubs across the west.
The opener, "Carry My Guitar," is a perfect country-pop confection. Devaney slyly buries some dark lines about the strain of troubadour life in a daydream about a lover who could offer, at a minimum, the small grace of hauling her gear around. As a writer, she suffers from a bit of an identity crisis - too experienced to play the ingénue, but too optimistically romantic to dive headlong into the confessional. The result can, however, give her a unique stylistic stamp. On "Café 101" for example, there's mentions of junkies on the corner underscoring a relationship's decline. But there's also sweetness in the music and a singing, which refuses to go maudlin. Devaney moved to Hollywood from small town Iowa, so identifies with fish out of water. She's the sad girl who wants to be happy, and her songs clearly buoy her spirits.
Devaney's voice evokes Natalie Merchant by way of Crystal Gale. It's not hemi-powered, but reliable transportation to move along her wistful or jangly melodies. Two other highlights are "Playin' Make Believe," a torch song that an Adele could really sink her teeth into, and "Wake Up Sleepy Johnny," a musically atmospheric plea with two wonderful lyrics, "Why can't you be you" and "as you slowly OD". (It's all the more poignant as we read more headlines of stars lost to substance abuse.) This is strong work straight out of the American Dream, and it makes it easy to look forward to the next postcard.
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