Becky Schlegel- Dandelion   Leave a comment


Becky Schlegel

Dandelion

Lilly Ray Records

Name a bluegrass singer from South Dakota.

While not many immediately spring to mind, veteran recording artist Becky Schlegel fits the bill. Not limiting herself to pure bluegrass, Schlegel approaches country music with the same astuteness bluegrassers lend to their music- a sensible balance between proficiency and passion, with an ear for detail and a overarching awareness of the importance of melody.

Schlegel has long been a preeminent roots music vocalist from the northern mid-west. Dandelion is her fourth album and she has been recognized by the Minnesota Music Academy on numerous occasions for her vocal capabilities. Now Nashville-based, Schlegel has made appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and at the IBMA Songwriters’ Showcase.

Schlegel favors mid-tempo (and slower) ballads and her songs often contain wistful reflections of broken relationships. While Schlegel tends to have little luck with love, at least in her songs, neither is she particularly negative or angry. Mostly, Schlegel’s melancholy romances are handled maturely and matter-of-frankly, with a little denial mixing in for self-preservation. In “I Never Loved You Cowboy,” Schelegel sings, “I never wanted to ride away into your purple sky,” denying- if only to herself- that the rodeo romance meant anything.

Co-producer Brian Fesler’s banjo provides a bit of bluegrass presence on “I Never Needed You,” another fine song that never quite picks up to the pace some listeners might hope. Still, the vocal treatment from Schlegel, smoky and determined, is spot-on delivering bittersweet honesty.

Having been compared in reviews to everyone from Dolly Parton and Lee Ann Womack to Lori McKenna and Jewel, Schlegel is an artist that defies sensible comparison. Favoring minor keys, Schlegel recall prominent vocalists within the roots music world although she isn’t so unusual that she doesn’t fit in with those to whom she is compared. Naturally, her voice is her strongest asset but she continually demonstrates she is an adept songwriter.

I can’t imagine a radio station playing “So Embarrassing,” the album’s initial single, but that is more a condemnation of modern programming than it is a statement of the songs accessibility. Failing to cut the cord on a failed relationship, Schlegel is appropriately chagrined to find that the plan- “We’d take it slow and really wait until it’s over”- has failed.

Not everything about Dandelion is obviously about lamented love. A vile darkness clouds the innocence of “Cincinnati;” it is a creepy song, intentionally so I hope, suggesting things don’t end brightly for our weary young traveler. More hopeful is the rekindled yearning of “Reunion,” where high school sweethearts plan to meet after twenty years, and the faithful remembrance that is “Anna.”

Bluegrass completists will be interested to hear Josh Williams’ vocal harmony and mandolin contributions to “When It Rains,” an engrossing song that features additional resophonic textures from Michael Witcher. Randy Kohrs appears on two songs, lending vocals to “I Never Loved You Cowboy” and resonator to “So Embarrasing.”

Beyond its slightly glaring album package, there is nothing off-putting about Dandelion. The songs inspire pleasant lingering memories and flashes of mental melody. Becky Schlegel again demonstrates that she is more than capable as a singer and writer and is certainly ready to make career advancement.

A shorter version of this review has been submitted to Country Standard Time.

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