As a part of my ongoing curiosity for relatively unknown but very talented bands with a penchant for originality, I invariably dug up a veritable gem.
By: Vanessa Uy
Ever since I’ve started listening to music on a regular basis, I’ve fantasized on being an “A&R” person working during the golden age of rock (1950-1980). How exciting it would be hearing The Runaways (Joan Jett and Lita Ford’s first band) or Jimi Hendrix playing their hearts out just for me to gain my approval for that all important “music deal”? If you ask me, it might be my way of compensating for being born too late to meet Jimi Henrix “in the flesh” or for being born too early for interplanetary colonization or interstellar travel. To be pragmatic, I’ve put it upon myself to tour record bars and used LP stores in search of unknown but talented bands. The “sense of satisfaction” I usually get from these adventures are more or less similar to my “A&R fantasy” except this is healthier because it’s for real.
I’ve been listening to Hazeldine’s “Digging You Up” album for almost two years now and it never seems to disappoint me. On this album, their sound and style could be described as “alternative country” i.e. a genre of music that became somewhat popular during the mid 1990’s like Grant Lee Buffalo or Cowboy Junkies, or as my audiobuddies jokingly describe as any well recorded country music with college level lyrics. Hazeldine’s “Digging You Up” is first and foremost an electric guitar driven album. The skillful inclusion of acoustic stringed instruments that are “de rigueur” in traditional country music like banjos and glockenspiel only help the band in the originality front to no end. Their vocal style is reminiscent of “Cowboy Junkies” except it is rawer in a way that compliments the tones of the electric guitars used in this album. If you fancy the sound of a “Fender Champ” and you don’t have US$3,000 burning a hole in you pocket then this album is for you. The tempo on most of the songs on this album is slow as in Ben Harper circa1998 slow, but like Ben Harper this only helps in their song craft. If you’re into Lunachicks style 300 beats per minute frenzy, then this album might not be to your liking.
To me, the first four songs of the album were standouts compared to the rest. “Allergic To Love” really speaks to me as most can’t-stand-the-heartache kind of songs (there aren’t many of them). My partiality to this song is only enhanced by my current love interest who likes the same TV shows as me like 24, Prison Break, Jericho, “Leno”, ”Conan”, ”SNL”, etc;. “Drive” relates to me in a way that’s not might have been intended by the songwriter, because I play this song in my head every time I fantasize about space travel. I wonder if those “servicemen” involved on the “War On Terror” listen to this song on their way to their bombing target. “Digging You Up” the title track to this album is one of those rare “boy mistreats me” songs that is not crappy. Well most of them are! While “Realize” to me is a song that should be included on the soundtrack on the famed movie director Alejandro Gonzales Inarrittu’s latest opus “Babel”. Even if the rest of the songs on the album pales in comparison to the first four that I have mentioned. These songs are still miles ahead in terms of musicianship and lyric writing in comparison to the current-crop of “alternative rock” songs in both airplay and down-loads that stress fashion over music or emulate the latest cash- cow band du jour.
If I were asked on “Why does fame elude Hazeldine?” I think it’s because they’re a band that places creative and artistic integrity of paramount importance. Next, it’s even harder now in post September 11, 2001 America to be a “red neck” woman country singer who is a philosopher-queen of sorts to gain superstar status. I think one would be an anathema to the “Fascist Bush Administration” as what had happened to the Dixie Chicks a few years ago. But enough about that, I’m just glad that there are bands like Hazeldine out there who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Looks like New Mexico has other subjects of interest besides Georgia O'Keffe’s paintings of flowers that look like a puckered up “labia”.