Baby Dee: Safe Inside the Day

By: Sarah Moore

Baby Dee's Safe Inside The Day (Drag City) is a project with Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and Matt Sweeney (Zwan, Guided by Voices, Chavez) collaborating. Dee's sometimes mellow piano, harp and a voice recall a young Angela Lansbury, often giving this album a legato, lengthened feeling. At other times, her vaudeville and boogie-woogie piano maneuvers conjure thoughts of a 1920's piano bar, notably on "Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)," which says, "You just can't keep a good albino down."

The confusing and seemingly outlandish subject matter refers to people and places on an Ohio street where Dee grew up. There are ghosts and memories that just needed to escape and have Dee tell their stories. Throughout, Oldham contributes vocal harmonies while Sweeney takes care of the guitar licks. Andrew WK plays the subtle, rumbling bass, as on "The Only Bones that Show," that offsets the mostly-treble sound. "Bones" eventually develops into a small-scale orchestral piece that combines strings, woodwinds and rock & roll electric guitar. Additional vocalists are added with a degree of off-key and cackling witch tones.

The title track comes across, especially with repeated listens, as the most impactful and engaging. Dee shifts from reticent chord progressions and restrained strings (violin, viola, cello) to forte expressions with exaggerated enunciation and controlled, climactic refrains. Oldham's relaxed harmonies in this track are especially tearjerking when coupled with Dee's hushed vibrato.

Dee, a transgendered artist whose album notes resemble Gary Busey's unintelligible ranting, began performing on street corners and in churches but nowhere in between. Her message for this album is the following: "The inside is bigger than the outside, more important, and less destructible." Hopefully, as this reviewer reads it, this statement refers to the quality and longevity of the stuff inside of us as being what matters most. Perhaps she refers to the memories and ghosts with which she's left, making her what she and Safe Inside the Day are today.

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http://www.myspace.com/theonlybabydee

[Published on: 3/24/08]

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