“Dotted Lines” – Dana Immanuel

3 stars (out of 5)

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Dana Immanuel - 'Dotted Lines' -TitleI have to admit it; when a press release describes the artist as “banjo-toting, whiskey-drinking, poker-playing singer-songwriter currently operating from a north London hideout” it does grab your attention. With those influences, you wouldn’t expect an album full of moonin’ and Junin’ lyrics and you wouldn’t be wrong. Dana Immanuel’s second album, “Dotted Lines”, is a fascinating mixture of lyrical invention, painful honesty some psychedelic production and arrangements pulling elements in from her varied and interesting background to create eight songs that give us a sometimes disturbing insight into her life. That’s right, only eight songs, but none of them make me reach for the skip button, so I don’t have a problem with that.

The album’s opener and title track tells you immediately that we’re not in Kansas any more; there’s banjo, distorted slide guitar, breaking bottles and reversed sounds as a framework for a story of metaphorically disrespected boundaries. It’s part Americana, part psychedelia and part musique concrete and it’s not often I get the chance to say that. The musical invention is present throughout the album, from the thunderous bass and reversed backing vocals of “Rock Bottom” to the military beat and massed counterpoint of “Going to the Bottle” and there’s verbal dexterity in the lyrics as well (how about ‘It’s not my primary intention to find chemical redemption’) although there’s always a fine line between smart and too much, which the album just about stays on the right side of.

The two slower songs towards the end of the album stand out as more personal, dealing surprisingly gently with an artistic groupie (“Life in Colour”) and the need to be completely selfish in order to succeed in the music business (“Be like Arnie”) using fiddle and trumpet respectively for some additional colour. There are references to gambling, drinking and failed relationships throughout the album (not surprisingly given Dana’s background) but there’s also “Mile High”, an interesting take on the life of airline cabin crew. It’s certainly an interesting mix and it’s not an album that permits boredom because there’s always something new around the corner. The songs may be strong meat, but Dana’s pure, and sometimes delicate, voice rounds away some of the sharp edges creating bitter-sweet vignettes.

Out on Friday 16th October.