- October 24, 2019
- Kelly McCartney
- Album Reviews
by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), Folk Alley
Country music has long leaned into the un-simple aspects of life, like cheating on someone you love with someone you don't, for example. That's because being human is an un-simple experience. It's messy and painful and difficult, occasionally even at the same time that it's nice and joyful and fun.
So when Michaela Anne weaves tangled webs with the songs of Desert Dove, she's not reinventing any musical wheels. She is, instead, carrying on a long-standing tradition that goes back to Patty Loveless and Shania Twain, in the more recent past, as well as Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, in the more distant. The difference with Desert Dove is that Michaela stretches her sonic wings to fly outside the bounds of country and into more Americana terrain.
That much is clear from the opening strains of “By Our Design,” as it melds teasing orchestral swells, gentle acoustic strums, tasteful electric flourishes, and muted percussive touches. It's gorgeously moody, underlying a tale of coming together to build an unconventional life that fits the narrator and her partner. “One Heart” is cut from a similarly lovely cloth, even as it speaks to an inability to draw properly protective emotional boundaries with said partner.
Michaela Anne grew up on military bases all around the world, later stepping into a touring musician's life, so the breezy alt-country drive of “Child of the Wind” knows of what it speaks. Alternately, “Desert Dove” was inspired by another woman's real life experience as a sex worker in the California desert. Michaela met Madeline there and knew hers was a story that needed sharing, with all the empathy and empowerment she could muster because everyone's story deserves at least that much care.
As heartfelt and heart-full as so many of Desert Dove's songs are, there's also some old-school sass/new wave feminism to be found in “If I Wanted Your Opinion” which should be soaring on the airwaves, if country radio weren't so desperately pathetic when it comes to playing female artists.
To close the set, Michaela Anne circles back to the psychological, spiritual, and emotional quicksand that so many of us trudge through on a daily basis in this thing called life. With “Be Easy,” she consoles a friend who has been worn all the way down, extending her voice, love, ear, and understanding. A beautifully simple gesture in this incredibly un-simple world.