PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Baby Dee: Safe Inside the Day

Erik Gundel

A former street performer and tree climber gets some assistance from Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Andrew W.K. on her Drag City debut.


Baby Dee

Safe Inside the Day

Label: Drag City
US Release Date: 2008-01-21
UK Release Date: 2008-02-11
Amazon
iTunes

As a former street performer who played a concert harp atop a high-rise tricycle, you would not think Baby Dee has a hard time gaining attention. Yet despite two strong albums of elegant songwriting, widespread acclaim has eluded her even in the independent music community. In 2004 she retreated from the music business to start a tree pruning company, lured by the delight of climbing. Unfortunately, a freak wind pushed a tree the wrong way, leaving a house crushed and Baby Dee in debt. That’s when friends are most important, and Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney chose her to open up a show for them on their Superwolf tour. Aside from financial aid, it sparked a collaboration that brought Safe Inside the Day to fruition.

With Baby Dee’s idiosyncratic vocals and Sweeney’s bare production, Safe Inside the Day is sure to draw comparisons to Antony (for whom Baby Dee played harp on his first album), Tom Waits, and perhaps Joanna Newsom. While she shares a theatrical performing style with these artists, Baby Dee’s music sits in a different Venn diagram of genres-- and then she tears the diagram apart. The opening title track, a highlight of the album, features a rousing vocal performance set to piano and subtle strings. It is similar in tone and effect to Antony’s “Hope There’s Someone”, an unflinching opening statement that will weed out any less adventurous listeners (or those with an aversion to her distinctively expressive vocals).

From here, Baby Dee hops from cabaret to blues, torch song to tango, handling all styles with extreme confidence. Her classical training as a harpist and organist for a church choir is evident in the two instrumentals that kick off the second half of the album; “A Christmas Jig for a Three-Legged Cat” pops out of nowhere with recorder and contrapuntal piano, flowing into the more subdued string and piano duet of “Flowers on the Tracks”. Standout track “The Only Bones That Show” is a stomping number with the most memorable chorus of the album, a lyrical and musical hook that adds a gang of backup singers to the mix.

Occasionally Baby Dee’s vocals distract from the words she is singing, despite the uniformly excellent lyrics. “The Only Bones” points out the fragility of the human body, based on insights from her tree-climbing days: “And when you’re up there in the cold/ Hopin’ that your knot will hold/ And swingin’ in the snow/ That’s when you know/ That teeth are the only bones that show”. “Fresh out of Candles” is a humorous take on the diminishing respect for religion, a story of saints turning into bad apples: “Father Son and Holy Ghost/ Stole the bacon and burnt the toast/ Fresh out of candles, Poor Saint Blaise/ Went down chokin’ on steak and eggs.”

Safe Inside the Day is a strong album by a clearly skilled musician, but it is also an attempt to capture a natural performer. How well it succeeds in this regard is up to those who have seen Baby Dee perform. Her unusual voice begs for a visual counterpart, and you can only imagine her rocking, swaying, closing her eyes in the haze of the music. It can be slightly exhausting to listen to on its own, though the variety of styles goes a long way in maintaining an open ear. Perhaps the association with Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney will increase awareness of her unique songwriting talent (Andrew W.K. and members of the Johnsons and Current 93 also guest), though their contributions put the spotlight squarely on Baby Dee, and to their credit, you soon forget they are involved. On Safe Inside the Day, Baby Dee sounds mature and experienced, while singing with youthful exuberance. Her life story is full of amazing turns (too many to name here), but let’s hope she sticks with music for a while longer.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.