Alice DiMicele (pronounced DeeMissEllie) wastes zero time planting her flag firmly in the blues. The first 3 seconds of this, her 16th album tell you exactly where you are, with a strong, rich voice, a tried and tested subject and a sure-footed rendition of an instantly recognisable form.

Great, you think, as you settle down in that familiar, comfy armchair in your grandmother’s parlour, closing your eyes, ready to enjoy the familiar smells of cooking and baking and sweet cake treats…

Er, no! Nothing of the kind, in fact.

A sudden change of direction into what feels much more like later life Joni Mitchell almost yanks you out of that chair like a weed from a rose garden and shakes you out of your complacency and narrow expectations, and you’re off on a journey to…. well, by halfway through track 3, you’re wondering exactly where and what and who awaits you on the road, and who is the Alice DiMicele that you’ll discover on the way.

By the middle of the album, you’ve left the comfy blues armchair (and Joni) far in the rear view mirror, and the landscape is much more Brandi Carlisle, with some authentic love story notes mixed with obviously deeply personal social commentary.

It’s kind of like your grandmother, who was little more, when you were a kid, than baking and treats and staying up late, but then you discovered her old photograph box, and in leafing through the images came to realise she was a whole different person, full of stories and experiences and adventure and fun and life and history…

How much you actually learn about DiMicele by the end of all this is debatable. It’s possible that all you’re left with is a lot of contradictory and confusing clues to the person and her life story like you’ve been browsing through an old antique shop that feels slightly unnerving, and yet is as familiar and comforting as your grandmother’s parlour.

I’m still not sure whether that sudden and complete detour from the opening blues standard to everything else sits quite comfortably. I’m left wondering why the blues were included. An unimaginative cynic might suggest that its inclusion was a favour to its co-writer (it’s the only collaboration on the album). But I’d rather conclude that it’s a deliberate and rather clever sleight of hand to ensure that the listener pays proper attention to the rest of the journey, and to the stories being told along the way.

Either way, this is certainly a well-produced, tastefully arranged, and thought-provoking collection, worthy of considered exploration.

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