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Album Review

DALA
Best Day

When I first found Dala, it seemed like they needed my help. They had yet to break through on the US front and were pretty much working their way up the Canadian ladder. I mean, what could a folk duo from Canada do these days? It is not like it is the sixties and one's yardstick is Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell. This is a different world, especially on the music front, and without the major labels behind you, you are destined to obscurity, right? Well, it seemed like it to me when I got my copy of 2007's Who Do You Think You Are. I mean, I was hearing nothing about these girls and yet their album had been released for a coup0le of years already in Canada. All I could think of was, what gives?

What gave was that they were bumping up against the ice. They had started with the cards stacked against them and they were working their asses off trying to surface, only to find that the lake had frozen over. What to do? Well, what they had been doing all along, working their asses off, only harder. They kept things positive in their business and especially in their music and eventually something had to pop, right? Of course.

That something came in the form of an invitation to perform at 2009's Newport Folk Festival. It wasn't the festival itself that did the job, rather a fluke instance of them being asked to play the main stage while equipment was moved. They had been given a much smaller audience for their supposed only appearance and had created a buzz, but performing on the main stage was in the future, if then. But they did it and they converted an audience who had heard little if anything of this young Canadian duo with the sweet voices and fluid style into fans. And they converted writers. Overnight, music writers were wondering who these young girls were, and thus the real ride began.

It has been a long ride for them. After getting their foot in the US door, they had to rework their previous albums and that meant one hell of a lot of travel, singing older songs to appreciative audiences in, where? Medicine Hat? Missoula? Sandpoint? Pretty much. Small towns and small venues. But the harder they worked, the more headway they made into the public consciousness until the bigger venues opened up. In Canada, they really picked up steam, garnering their own PBS-backed performance in 2010.

Did they hit the big-time? If only someone could define what the big-time is anymore. They did strike a nerve with thousands of potential fans, many of who became just that. The girls found a US label, Compass Records, and have been spending a lot of their time crisscrossing the States between Canadian and UK gigs. Yeah, by today's standards, I suppose you could say that they have hit the big-time. They are not getting incredibly rich, but they're doing okay.

Okay enough to put out another outstanding album. This one, titled Best Day, is the first album launched in the States and Canada simultaneously. How is it doing? Well, it could never do well enough for me. I have been listening to the aforementioned Who Do You Think You Are and the 2009 follow-up Everyone Is Someone for a couple of years now and cannot believe that they have not reached the top. The way I see it, they should be headlining at least medium-sized venues and maybe some music festivals. They should be touring with the likes of Springsteen and Lady Antebellum, the top tier, but they are not there yet. God knows why. The music is there.

I absolutely love the two albums I mentioned and when Best Day made it to my player, I was ready to love it, too, but I was anxious. What if the album was nothing like the those other two? Or, worse, yet, what of it was? I mean, I had a lot of personal interest in these girls. Hell, I discovered them! And I laugh out loud, reading those words and that sentiment, but it was not far from the truth--- in my head. Like those rags-to-riches stories with which we were pummeled to death during the Olympics, I wanted my girls to win! I wanted them to take home the gold!

Well, thus far they haven't quite done that. Not because of the music. No, Best Day has music of equal or better quality than the two albums leading up to it. The songwriting is as good as ever, their voices strong, the production as good as it can get. But people aren't hearing them. Radio does not pull any weight. The Net is a massive glob of too-much. And there are so many live shows in the cities these days that you get lost in the sheer numbers of it all. Still, I have faith. As long as these girls keep working the circuits, they will get there. Not soon enough for me, though.

I always looked upon Dala as a mature Patience & Prudence. If you don't know the names, let me just say that those girls were ready to take the world by storm back in the fifties but didn't. Not quite. They had an innocence about them--- personally as well as musically--- and after two monstrous hits, fell by the wayside as the record business went bonkers. Those were two sincere voices which, had they had the maturity, might have become real stars or even superstars. Well, Dala is cut from the same cloth. Their voices are uncommonly beautiful, their songwriting constantly topnotch and their live shows evidently something to see (I blew my one chance, thus far, so I have to rely on writers who, as far as I can tell, unanimously approve). They are Pop more than Folk. They rely on melody and harmony and they can reach inside you and squeeze until you hurt. That's one thing I love about them. They have yet to put out an album which does not have at least one song that brings tears to my eyes. On Best Day, it is Still Life. It's not like it makes you bottom out emotionally (actually, it does), but if you're already there, it makes the bottom much more comfortable.

If you like your music on the musical side--- soft, melodic and with lots of harmonies and produced to a T, this is an album you should check out. Check all of Dala's albums out, actually. There are treasures on each. I mean, how many albums out there give a nod to Winnipeg and hockey? Not too many I assure you.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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