Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Dilly Dally Alley: “Make You Whole” (2023) CD Review

Before you ask, yes, it was absolutely the band’s name that got me interested in this album. Seriously, what a delightful band name. People don’t use the expression “dillydally” enough anymore, and if this band just gets people saying that word again, it will have done humanity a great service. Dilly Dally Alley is based in Minneapolis, playing a brand of funk music that incorporates elements of pop, jazz and soul. The band is made up of Sophia Spiegel on vocals, guitar and cello; Ivan Cunningham on alto saxophone; Will Kjeer on keys; Mitch Van Laar on trumpet; Max Voda on bass and violin; Kevin Yetter on drums; and Adam Tucker on percussion. Their debut album, Make You Whole, contains all original material, written or co-written by Sophia Spiegel.

The album opens with “Reaching Out To The Blue Sky,” which has some bird sound effects at the start. The band eases in, joining the natural sounds, and soon a rather glorious piece is underway, the voices of the instruments rising and singing. Interestingly, this short instrumental track deliberately falls apart before the end. It leads directly  into “Give Yourself Up To Yourself,” the strong work on keys given prominence at the start. “Waiting for the earth to take back what’s hers.” Ah, there’s a line that gets you thinking. There are moments when I think the planet is trying to shake us off, like a case of fleas, to take itself back from people. This is a song of life, of being true to ourselves, and of connection, and it has a full, vibrant sound. “Heaven is closer when you lay your worries to rest/Darling, you wonder what healing your story could do.” For me, music is what is able to perform the most healing. This song was written by Sophia Spiegel and Justin Halverson.

Things get funkier at the beginning of “See How She Moves,” a song with a good rhythm, the band delivering some delicious work on both bass and drums. And this song’s lyrics include a description of a person I don’t think I’ve ever heard before: “She smells like the difference between apathy and care.” What a striking description. We can really feel this woman, not just see her, though lines and phrases like “she moves like the wind blowing leaves back to life” and “her long neck” help us see her too. And we feel ourselves following her as Sophia does. This track contains a nice lead on keys toward the end. That’s followed by “Beloved Beckons.” This one eases in gently, smoothly, with a soothing vibe. It has some wonderfully poetic lyrics, such as these lines: “In the sting of a sunrise/Flickering in your eyes/Is where I wait.” I love the way this one gradually grows in power until you find yourself caught up in its energy, particularly from the horns.

The vocal line of “Bathtub Born” becomes a strong part of the song’s rhythm. I love Sophia Spiegel’s delivery, and the way that rhythm works with the strings. And then the horn approaches from a distance off to the left. I also really like the way the strings begin to dominate in the second half. It feels at times like the instruments are acting like the tides, coming in with some power, then receding, as others come in. “I wish I could breathe with my ears/So I could listen to the songs you sent me/With my face underwater.” And then we are suddenly treated to a beautiful vocal section at the end. This is one of my personal favorite tracks. That’s followed by the album’s title track, “Make You Whole.” There are some sounds from nature as this one begins, as well as some pretty work on guitar. “A tree bends like a wise old sage/And whispers to you that a life can get better with age.” This one grows in beauty, and features some wonderful work on strings as well as gorgeous vocal work. “Gotta keep my head up/Gotta keep my head up/Boy, I’m on your rip tide, and I’m worried it’s a setup.” It builds to this message: “Go easy on your body, go easy on your soul/And never let another body take away the things that make you whole.” That is something it’s good to keep in mind, particularly in days of anxiety and uncertainty.

“Your Lies Are Like Rivers” begins in a darker, hazier place, then soon kicks in, the horns casting light upon us. “I don’t mind if you need me/I just mind that your loving isn’t real.” And as this one begins to build, it comes from a need. We hear it in Sophia Spiegel’s voice, a need to repair, a need to understand, after being left broken by a love. Then “They Say The Heart Can’t Break” begins with a good beat, which is one sure way to grab my interest. “Gather the twigs, draw the hot water/Open your spell books, call your mother/Other things can wait right now/Right now, you need to know your beauty is like no other.” Oh yes, and the horns seem to agree. I also dig that bass line. And the keys seem able to transport us to another realm during that lead toward the end of the track. That leads straight into the album’s final track, “You’re Not The One,” which has a bright energy. Halfway through, it mellows slightly, but only slightly, and during that section the vocals take on a more intimate quality. Soon that energy returns. The track ends with sounds of a storm.

CD Track

  1. Reaching Out To The Blue Sky
  2. Give Yourself Up To Yourself
  3. See How She Moves
  4. Beloved Beckons
  5. Bathtub Born
  6. Make You Whole
  7. Your Lies Are Like Rivers
  8. They Say The Heart Can’t Break
  9. You’re Not The One

Make You Whole was released on May 12, 2023.

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