The richly rewarding Grove House is her follow-up to Debbie Deane and her debut on RKM Records, a label run by the illustrious jazz saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. Once again, Deane brings warmth, sophistication and rock-n-roll edge to the table, leading a cast of fine musicians as she sings of love, ambivalence and freedom.
Though a Brooklynite by birth and by choice, Deane, like all of us, yearns for escape. She describes the title Grove House as “a metaphor for a nice, cozy place where people are happy.”
But as she hints in the title track, the Grove House actually exists. “The song came out of a weekend with a bunch of friends going down this beautiful house in Georgia. It’s known as a Democratic haven, a retreat for a lot of policy-making, an activist scene. But we were there to party and have fun. I roomed with one of my best friends – we were ‘two chicks in the Grove House.’ I wanted to write a song about friendship and fun and good times. And that’s what the record is about: I want people to feel good, or just feel—that’s when I’m happiest.”
Many of the songs on Grove House feature Deane in a tight small-band context. But even in the sparsest settings, she achieves a huge sound, with lush background vocals and expansive textures. She plays the piano and acoustic guitar parts herself. “I was a piano major at Berklee College of Music — I transcribed Miles and Herbie Hancock and the world opened up,” she recalls. Her tasty Fender Rhodes solo on “Bad Boy” is a case in point. But she sounds all the stronger thanks to a pool of fantastic musicians, including Brian Blade (Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock), Rodney Holmes (Santana) and Tony Mason (Joan Osborne, Martha Wainwright, Norah Jones) on drums; Jim Whitney (Andy Statman) and Richard Hammond (Erasure, Jonatha Brooke, Nellie MacKay) on bass; Chris Cheek on saxophone, Robin Macatangay (Cassandra Wilson, Harry Belafonte) on lead guitar, and Gilad (Al Di Meola) on percussion. Elie Massias produced seven tracks and played a number of instrumental parts. Deane co-produced four tracks with Dan Stein, who filled in on organ and guitar as well. Rich Lamb and Deane did the final mixes, plus additional arranging and production.
There is plenty of earthy blues-based rock and even a touch of gospel in Deane’s music. But Grove House runs the gamut, from the anthemic choruses of “Pie” and “You Know Me” to the intimate poetry and guitar/vocal layering of “Sailor Song,” which elegantly closes the album. “Down Down Down” features Deane on gritty Wurlitzer piano, while “Slow It Down” moves in a jazzier ballad direction. “The Spell” recalls Joni Mitchell in her Hejira and Hissing of Summer Lawns period. The wistful “Out There” is a reprise from Deane’s previous album, but it fits seamlessly into the new playlist. Produced by the renowned bassist Jeff Andrews, the track features a who’s who of major instrumental talent, including Wayne Krantz (Steely Dan) on acoustic guitar and Phil Markowitz (Chet Baker) on B3 organ. “The song is special to me,” Deane explains. “It’s influenced by the book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and it goes to that place of adolescent angst which I certainly experienced. Rich Lamb poured his heart into this mix and I wanted to make sure that people heard it.”
Deane’s expressive artistry is something people should indeed hear. Even at her most straightforward, she’ll often throw a curve, whether it’s a chord, a lyric, a sound. “You know/my vodka from my gin/my virtues from my sins,” she sings in “You Know Me.” Grove House allows us all to know a highly gifted singer-songwriter.
1. Poseidon (2:32)
2. Yesterday (3:25)
3. Bad Boy (4:35)
4. Pie (2:57)
5. Out There (4:48)
6. Down Down Down (3:30)
7. You Know Me (3:33)
8. Grove House (4:48)
9. The Spell (4:10)
10. Still Here (4:59)
11. Slow It Down (4:18)
12. Sailor Song (2:58)
All songs written by Debbie Deane
All songs ©2011 Debbie Deane
Dubba Scrubba Music, BMI