Vienna D’Amato Hall is not a place, but an artist – and an immensely talented artist at that. Her latest release, It’s What the Dog Saw is a work of staggering depth, lyricism and beauty. Having started playing music just last year, the American/Canadian singer-songwriter is already touring this fall. Finding inspiration from her mother’s rendering of old blues and folk songs, she responded to her own calling to song by acting swiftly – knocking out a full LP with renowned producer/composer Andre Fratti. The album speaks for itself.
The album begins with “Song of Ruth“. Tumbling along with toms, shakers, and acoustic guitar the song evokes momentum and motion, emotions and change, and introduces us to the vulnerable bliss of Vienna D’Amato Hall’s vocals. Through tones rustic, worn and vibrant she proclaims, “It all came down, so the bluebirds came, whistled their little hearts for truth, and sang to me the song of Ruth.” We make the acquaintance of a woman who resembles the Biblical Ruth: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay”, yet not for a divine creator, but for the men who wreak havoc in her poeticized world.
Image via Vienna D’Amato Hall
Like Leonard Cohen, and with a depth that places her in the same realm, Vienna D’Amato Hall makes continual allusion to the ancient spiritual traditions. Her poetry is not trite or thin, but deeply reflective and anchored in spiritual legacy of our past. In “Benedict”, another up-tempo tumbler, she writes: “Slaughter the lamb, but don’t show her the blade, it darkens her tongue, it dampens her name”. Deep and visual references populate Vienna D’Amato’s work, making her album stand out from so much of the pop music today that offers only cryptic superficiality.
The arrangements throughout the album are superb. Andre Fratti provides a yawning and expansive backdrop, with layers that are unconventional, poignant and expressive. Incorporating xylophone, slide guitar and synthetic choirs, the album rains with melodic intensity. Moreover, the songs themselves are masterfully crafted, with chord changes and shifts, especially “Tommy”, that display the workings of a penetrative musical mind.
The title track, It’s What the Dog Saw, pays testament to this – slide guitar pours down from the heavens in a cascade of thunderous intensity as the chorus cranks in. D’Amato’s vocals beckon – “you broke your bed, with your sweat”, offering the listener a zoomed out perspective from the intensities that underlie bedroom romance.
Image via Vienna D’Amato Hall
The album reaches its pinnacle in “Dare We Dance”. The lilting and effortless melody of the vocal winds through a corridor of harbored and introverted mystique. In her surrender to sense, she dispels: “Blinder men can better soon, touch the leaden parts of me.” The chorus continues: “Dare we dance, deep, in the mountain lain in the trance”. The sonic landscape is visual, and engrossing, and in the second verse, as a gentle harmony is overlaid, she sighs: “How long do you breathe with me, before I christen thee, into the abyss, never to grow a wing”. It’s one spellbound line after the next, that ultimately crescendoes into the conclusive: “bleed a little grace, for a little chance”. “Dare We Dance” captures the allures of sense and the subterfuges that underlie it.
Vienna D’Amato Hall and Andre Fratti have composed a beautiful work of art. Given D’Amato’s recent entry into songwriting, this is a subliminal and enchanting first album, one that shows only the tip of the iceberg of a gifted and blessed artist.
Vienna D’Amato Hall kicks off her European tour this autumn in Berlin and will be sure to return Stateside in the coming months. For more listening head over to Soundcloud and be sure to visit her website, follow on Twitter, and Facebook.