Febuary 21st, 2010

New Album by Baby Dee
Release Date: March 1, 2010
Tin Angel Records in the UK
Drag City in the US

A Book of Songs
1. Overture (intro)
2. Love’s Small Song
3. A Book of Songs for Anne Marie
4. Lilacs
5. Unheard of Hope
6. Black but Comely
7. And Anne Marie Does Love to Sing
8. Endless Night
9. Set me as a Seal
10. A sMorning Holds a Star
11. An Early Spring
12. Morning Fire

Press Release:


“Born, we are mortal, dehydrated, ordinary; love is the oil that plumps one up, dilates the eyes, puts a glow on the skin, lifts us free from the weight of time” – Laurie Lee
After the overwhelming response to Safe Inside the Day in February 2008, the unique Baby Dee returns with Book of Songs. It will be released by UK indie-of-repute Tin Angel (home to a wide ranging roster that includes Devon Sproule and Polar Bear) and Drag City in the US. What was telling about the response to Safe Inside the Day was the purity of reaction. The back story (let’s face it, Baby Dee is the epitome of the phrase), never overshadowed the fact that she gives everything and that is what connects with critics and audience alike.
While the last album was helped along enormously by Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney producing, this one was lead by the calming presence of Maxim Moston (part of Antony and the Johnson’s touring band and arranger of some standing). “She sent me the demo and I was floored – here was a true collection of lieder, or art songs” What he envisaged in his words were “song cycles performed in their entirety and stripped of all excess, just piano and voice, poetry and melody”. Gone are the more bawdy ruminations to be replaced by a glowing heart of a record. Hermetically sealed and lovingly passed on so that we can understand what love could mean from Dee’s consuming perspective. It is at times jaw-dropping in its profundity.
It could be seen as a prequel to Safe Inside the Day in so much as it was issued in book form (with bonus disc) in 2004 on David Tibet’s Durtro label. It was limited to 150 copies and has been out of print for years. Essentially, this is its first outing. The reason to make the record in the first place was borne out of love, and the reason to re-visit the record also came from that same scary yet beautiful place.
Dee remembers the writing process very clearly, with the album’s inception in a cold January in Cleveland, 2002.
“I went to a studio and played them through once live at the piano and sent them off without even listening to it. Looking back, it’s hard even for me to understand why I insisted on the recording being so slapdash, as the book itself was exquisite; I guess two things, I knew I couldn’t do the songs justice and I hoped that maybe somebody down the road would do that for me. I know that’s crazy but in fact it worked. Years later I asked Maxim to arrange the songs but at that time we decided to do Safe Inside the Day instead. And then finally I got my little miracle when a year after that Max offered to go ahead and do those arrangements and produce the record. So he became that somebody down the road.
“ As for why I wrote the songs… Somebody once asked David Tibet for his favourite word or something like that and his answer was that the two most beautiful words in the English language are "and yet". If I had to say where these songs came from I’d say they came from there – the land of "and yet". As far back as I can remember I have always regarded men and women as nothing short of gods, capable as they were in my eyes, of such direct and uncomplicated desire – Lover and beloved. What in all the world could be more beautiful?”.
‘ And yet’, Dee could not be sure if she would ever attain such a love.
Unlike Safe Inside the Day, the songs are not really presented as a theatrical piece; this time the way the tracks tip toe around the central core of the piece is instrumental, with heart rending treatments intertwining around piano/harp and minimal orchestration. The darkness that once was, is given a plump pillow to view new possibilities.
The ‘Overture’ sets the scene, with Dee weaving around rhapsodic brass and fluttering strings. On ‘Love’s Small Song’ Dee offers a crooked finger to chance and wonderment and in doing so offers a song that is far from small or effete. By nudging the door open, we start to see shards of light enter the room on ‘A Book of Songs for Anne Marie’. “As sunlight comes to sorry stone, so come, my love and take this sorriest stone of all/To find a grateful place, that warm and sunlit wall”.
By the time ‘Unheard of Hope’ uncoils we realise that this is a very special record, one that burrows deep into itself and in turn, the listener. Dee’s phrasing on this track is superb and her musical timing, almost hovering over the keys, brings to mind the masterful Bill Evans in the simplicity of knowing when to release. It is a devastating track.
If anything signals an understanding of love, it is this section -“I’ll take your heart, the one you thought was yours/And give you one to call your own/And say, ‘Here. Take this. It’s for you. Mind now, don’t lose it’”.
If her command on piano was not giddying enough, we segue straight into ‘Black But Comely’ where we find Dee teasing more bountiful fruits from the harp alongside the quest for the everlasting love. “I’m black but comely, as a night shot with stars/And I’m not a tree of sticks, no, I’m not a tree of sticks/But a forest of hemlocks and beeches, of waters dark as wine from boundless reaches”.
What makes Dee indefatigable and the record so majestic is upturning any suggestion of there being limitations to love. From lines like: “Set as a seal on your heart, As a seal on your arm/For love is stronger than death” to the barest simplicity of being able to say to someone, “Like a baby first time talking/Here I am, It’s me, I’m here”. Baby Dee’s vulnerability and insight is inspirational.
So why not leave as 150 little books and move along? After all the ‘and yets’, Dee was actually “struck dumb” with love and thus was compelled to share this record with the world.
“ Everybody has a right – the right to really be the lover, to really be the beloved. Regardless of how fucked up and inadequate we are or how short our time is together. We never lose that opportunity” – Baby Dee 2009
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