Cristina Vane, Nowhere Sounds Lovely

Cristina Vane, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, Blue Tip Records

Sit up and take notice of Cristina Vane, whose Nowhere Sounds Lovely is a terrific amalgam of blues, bluegrass and country – a thoroughgoing bluesy Americana, you might say. Whatever way you want to describe it, she’s a wonderful talent – a skilful guitar picker and slide player, a fine songwriter and a beautiful singer.

Vane says that she loves pre-war era blues and that “honestly my favourite years are 1890 to 1950-1960.” She credits Skip James, Robert Johnson, and Blind Willie Johnson, as well as Rory Block, as some of her greatest influences, and all of that is in evidence throughout the album.

Not that it sounds in any way dated. It’s the sign of a talented songwriter and musician to give a traditional feel to a song, and yet have it feel bang up to date. Vane says she’s “essentially a rock kid who is obsessed with old music.” And that’s a winning combination.

The album kicks off with the country blues Blueberry Hill, featuring some nifty resonator slide, and you realize straight away what a great singer Vane is – lovely timbre, deadly accurate, sweet, and, well, just interesting.

Travelin’ Blues, driven along by some fine bluesy picking, reminiscent here and there of Mississippi John Hurt, is a joyous sounding blues song that is totally fresh and yet sounds like it’s an old friend. The album apparently was inspired by a five-month USA cross-country tour, where she playing small bars, breweries, coffeeshops, clubs, and people’s backyards, and camped out. So she knows a bit about traveling.

Dreaming of Utah came directly out of that trip and displays the depth and poetry of her lyrics. It’s a slow country waltz, with just Vane’s singing, some delicious harmonies and her strummed guitar until half way through the band swings in, with pedal steel player Tommy Hannum breaking your heart with his aching melody.

Vane suggests that she “knew virtually nothing about country, old-time and bluegrass music until I ventured to the American South, but seeing those different musical traditions on a local level was inspiring.” Hard to believe, with these songs. Take Will I Ever Be Satisfied, just Vane singing against a picked banjo – she sounds like she’s been singing this music all her life.

Badlands takes us right into the desolation of Dakota’s rocky, windy plains with a hypnotic melody sung urgently, along with an extremely effective, insistent drumming and what Rolling Stone called “Vane’s sizzling slide guitar.”

Heaven Bound Station is another song with a John Hurt vibe about it, though there was something in this one that reminded me of Johnny Cash too. The gospel theme is entirely in keeping with the tradition, and Vane does it justice, helped along by Cactus Moser’s rhythmical drumming. The Grammy-award winning drummer and producer Moser produced the album as well as providing the drums. The song arrangements throughout work exceedingly well, and the album sound is beautifully balanced, producing a great showcase for Ms.Vane.

Cristina Vane is a Princeton graduate with a degree in Comparative Literature and is fluent in four languages. Little wonder she has been able to imbibe these diverse musical influences and little wonder she’s given us an album that is intelligent, classy, and, most importantly, hugely enjoyable. She’s clearly an artist we’re going to hear much more from.