(De L’Est Music)
by Eric Thom
There appear to be any number or Angela Easterlings making an appearance on this slickly-produced third offering. Yet, despite the slight schizophrenia, her vocals manage to beguile regardless of the variety of songwriting styles and/or support employed. If she sounds like anyone, it’s that of a very young woman who seems unable to decide whether she’s country or pop – but is something in-between. Think Suzie Bogguss at a younger age, with an innocence and clarity so fresh as to be dangerous. There’s nothing deceptive about her, as the definition of ‘beguile’ might have it. It’s as honest as one might expect from a new talent from Greenville, SC. -áYet this is not her first recording and, again produced by veteran player Will Kimbrough (who produced her last, Blacktop Road)), but it is her first with a band of her own. Guitarist Brandon Turner and drummer Jeff Hook follow her every lead while guest artists like bassist Byron House (Robert Plant’s Band of Joy) and fiddler/pedal steel magician, Fats Kaplin don’t hurt. She spins out with elements of folk, rock, pop, country and even gospel across these dozen compositions, most -áof them self-penned with the exception of Brandon Turner’s “The Fish & The Bird” and the gospel traditional, “Anchored In Love”. -áThere are any number of highlights to be uncovered here. The light, airy, mandolin-driven “Happy Song” (which, until you get to know her range, is almost way too happy) features Easterling at her most Julie Andrews while the perky “Two Clouds” allows her to rear her head as a rocker, providing her hometown-proud band an opportunity to, by comparison, kick out a semblance of jams. The truly beguiling “Anchored In Love” (and its delicate reprise) finds her voice in its most comfortable setting and, aided by the support vocals of Fayssoux Starling McLean (Emmylou Harris) and Brandon Turner, this begs more of the same. The strongest track is, however, “Maria, My Friend” – which tells a sad tale of -álost friendship and proves a lovely vehicle for Easterling’s surprising vocal range, with sparse guitar/mandolin/accordion backdrop. The oft-recognized songwriter has worked ‘deception’ into many of the songs on Beguiler and no less so on quirky “Manifest Destiny”, a historic perspective with personal roots, embracing the White Man’s Burden complete with “Cherokee-like” percussion and Kaplin’s rootsy fiddle. History returns with the forlorn -á“Johnstown, Pennsylvania” – a personalized account of flooding from the late 1800’s, as Turner and Kaplin set the stage with memorable effects from their instruments. She and guitarist Turner hand unleash a lovely duet with “Never Got That Far” – in which two lovers just can’t say ‘goodbye’. With this chemistry, why would they? The soft-spoken “Pocket” offers another tangent, albeit a gentle, tasty one as brushes and soft-picked, almost jazz guitar proves that Easterling can easily include this smooth setting in her repertoire as well. All in all, a whole lot of record covering a great deal of musical ground in under 50-minutes. -áAs a result, it’s difficult to put a finger on where Easterling’s planning on going next, but the detours taken here do a fine job of leaving the decision squarely up to her. She’s certainly got the voice to pull it off.