Headless Heroes: The Silence of Love
Headless Heroes

The so-called brains behind Headless Heroes' The Silence of Love—a ten-song covers collection whose focus is “lost classics and unearthed gems”—is New York-based executive producer Eddie Bezalel (abetted by producer Hugo Nicolson) but, being front and center, it's the vocalizing of Alela Diane that's truly the album's make-or-break proposition. Luckily for all concerned, her voice has strong and immediate appeal, and even suggests sonic kinship with The Postmarks' Tim Yehezkely and one-time Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval. Though the Nevada City-based folk singer issued the self-released The Pirate's Gospel in 2007 and To Be Still on Rough Trade earlier this year, Diane found the recording of The Silence of Love a liberating experience as she was able to concern herself with singing and nothing more. Of course a singer is only as good as her band, so Bezalel made sure to recruit a stellar cast of musicians—Josh Klinghoffer, Woody Jackson, Joey Waronker, Leo Abrahams, and Gus Seyffert, among them—to play on the album.

That the songs are relatively obscure isn't a weakness; if anything, Bezalel, Nicolson, and David Holmes should be credited for selecting material that hasn't been covered to death and deserves to be resurrected. In truth, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a song as good as “Nobody's Baby Now” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and thankfully Headless Heroes gives the song the stately rendering it deserves. In general, there's a classic ‘60s feel to the album, with straightforward acoustic arrangements occasionally augmented by a trumpet here, lap steel there, and, in the case of Philamore Lincoln's “The North Wind Blew South,” strings (in fact, the songs, all of them bittersweet ruminations on love and loss, span over forty years). As clear as a mountain spring, Diane's voice rings out with conviction during Daniel Johnston's haunting “True Love Will Find You in the End” while the band offers bluesy support alongside. The madrigal-folk strains of Vashti Bunyan's “Here Before”—especially when Diane sings with such crystal-clear purity—invites comparison to Renaissance and its singer Annie Haslam. A similarly classic feel pervades Linda Perhacs' wistful ballad “Hey, Who Really Cares?” while The Gentle Soul's “See My Love” merges the lilting pop grace of The Postmarks with the graceful elegance of singers like Haslam and Judy Collins. Recognizing that simplicity often reaps the highest reward, the group strips the sound to vocals and acoustic guitar during its backwoods reading of Jackson C. Frank's “Blues Run the Game.” The remaining songs are fine if not quite as memorable (though a noble attempt, the jangle-lite treatment given “Just Like Honey” is no match The Jesus & Mary Chain's original). Finally, others could take a lesson from Headless Heroes in at least one other regard, given that The Silence of Love weighs in at an admirably svelte thirty-four minutes without ever feeling incomplete.

June 2009