Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Album Review: 77 El Deora - The Crown & the Crow's Confession

Maurice Tani and Jenn Courtney's 77 El Deora is a California-based alt-country band that has been amassing a loyal fan following with their distinctive vocals, well-crafted songs, and simple organic sound ever since the band's formation in 2004.  Maurice and Jenn share lead vocal duties, backed by Maurice on guitar, Mike Anderson on bass, Steve Kallai on violin, and Christopher Fisher on drums.  While their sound is a mixture of genre styles as opposed to straight-laced traditional country, 77 El Deora's lyrics are composed of the same themes that country music has always embraced.

The band's most recent project, The Crown & the Crow's Confession, offers many varying takes on the tried-and-true themes of love, loss, and heartache.  Guitarist/vocalist Maurice Tani takes writing or co-writing credit's on every track except for their version of Springsteen's "County Fair," which is reinterpreted as a duet backed by acoustic-based instrumentation.  The track ranks as one of the most romantic moments on the album.  Opening Track "I Just Dodged a Bullet" is a humorous satirical account of a tongue-in-cheek discussion between a couple who decide to end their relationship, neither party expecting the negative emotional consequences that are too follow.  In a duet performance, Maurice fills the man's role, with Jenn filling that of the woman.  The song culminates in the memorable hook, "I just dodged a bullet/ So where did this blood come from?"

The album has a good share of dark moments that couldn't be finer.  It is here in particular that Jenn Courtney often emerges as the recurring star of the show, with her full-throated voice creating the perfect mood for each song she performs.  Maurice's emotive vocals serve as the ideal counterpart.  A foremost example is found on the song "Rain," in which Jenn's smooth delivery envelops the gloomy melody against soft orchestral touches.  Maurice's harmony vocal joins hers in the chorus, as if filling the role of the departed lover the song's narrator longs for.

The Crown & the Crow's Confession is an album replete with highlights - not a single weak track in the bunch, closing with the engaging instrumental track "Cowboy."  Anchored by Maurice Tani's excellent songwriting, and full of dynamic spot-on performances, The Crown & the Crow's Confession is surely a gem worth seeking out.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)