Remember that old saying “never judge a book by its cover?” It’s a valuable piece of advice that we’ve all heard at one point or another and yet, we all seem to do it occasionally. I am no exception. In fact, when I received Vermont songstress DeAnna Moore’s recent album Escape, I was all set to review the album before I even began listening. The cover art features an upclose photograph of the beautiful blue-eyed artist holding a guitar and her name is printed in romantic cursive writing. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “I have another generic romantic folk album on my hands.” However, as I started listening, I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Moore’s appropriately-titled album is dark, brutal, and most importantly, honest… and if you’re willing to give it a close listen, it’ll capture your emotions from beginning to end.
The reason you have to give it a close listen? Well… it’s a folk album, and each song’s instrument arrangement is sparse. A few of the songs on Escape feature only Moore’s vocals and her acoustic guitar. Sometimes, the cello of John Dunlap is added, but only a couple of songs include further instrumentation. So, basically, if you’re looking for an album that is going to get you dancing, this isn’t it. But hey, this is a folk album, so that shouldn’t be expected anyway. And as long as you’re not multitasking and giving the album your full attention, there is plenty to enjoy about its music. Remember Jewel before she started enjoying the pop-life and her mediocre-at-best poetry book? You know, when she was singing songs like “Save Your Soul?” That’s what the album sounds like, and that’s a good thing. It’s completely appropriate for this type of album. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Moore possesses a gorgeous, siren-powerful voice that captures the attention of anyone who lends an ear either.
While the album’s folk-standard music is nice, it’s Moore’s words that make Escape such a wonderful record. This is no happy collection of flower-power songs. The album is a real heartbreaker. It paints a portrait of a woman who has been battered and beaten by love and life. Her world is covered by “Steel Blanket Skies” and memories and loves-gone-wrong haunt her each and every day. While some of these songs may be works of fiction, one can’t help but believe that each story is 100% autobiographical truth. Whether it’s the confession of the naïve woman in “Fragile,” the story of a girl whose lover’s heart is tied to a memory in “I’m Not Her,” or a lady’s desperate attempt to escape in the title track, a combination of Moore’s captivating vocals and her powerfully honest lyrics forces the hearts of listeners to reach out to the tortured soul crying out in song. From the madness of “Grief” to the unbelievably perfect thunderstorm-supported “Lullaby Reprise,” anyone who listens closely to Escape immediately becomes a part of Moore’s lonely world.
Ironically, however, the album’s greatest track is its only lighter number. “Old Fashioned Love,” Moore’s ode to her mother and father’s romance, is truly a lyrical masterpiece in the vein of River-Era Bruce Springsteen. The tale of how the free-spirited, motorcycle-riding Sophie wins the heart of the shy boy down the street, and the support of his mother, is beautiful beyond words. It rips at your heartstrings and by the time it’s over, it’ll have you believing in that Beatles number “All You Need Is Love” all over again.
So let this be another reminder to you all… never judge a book by its cover. And don’t pass by this album like I almost certainly would have. There is so much to love about DeAnna Moore’s Escape. This isn’t just a record for fans of folk music. This is an album for anyone who loves brutally honest music, and who has experienced the dark side of love… and the dark side of life.