Album Review: Marie Danielle – Hustler
Imagine silk laying on the floor, impossibly smooth and still reflecting brightly the light coming through the window. What color did you imagine? Was it a royal purple? Maybe a bright crimson? That’s what I imagine when I hear the exquisite voice of Marie Danielle. Don’t let the album title Hustler make you think it’s connected to the adult magazine; this is a smooth and spectacular country-influenced album full of honest songs.
Marie Danielle’s voice is worth about a million dollars. She sounds as cool and crisp as possible. Her opening “Tinseltown” is just the right kind of stripped down vocal sound that I like out of her. The second track “Soldier” is a bit more upbeat with more production. It’s not quite “pop country,” but the added pep is necessary for the album. It even features the Felice Brothers, lending a bit of Americana credibility to the album.
The title track “Hustler” is exactly what you want to hear on this album. There’s a heavy juke-joint beat to it, complete with an accordion for filler and just enough layers to allow Marie Danielle’s feature vocals to shine. It’s a song about a no-good dirty-rotten guy who stole her heart. Maybe my favorite part of the song is the subtle harmonies revealing the intimacy of a very personal song. It’s clearly about a guy who was too much trouble, but also someone that probably still has a little bit of her heart. What a GOOD country song.
“Dreary Head” has an old fashioned rambling sound to it. It’s about travelling and going about life as an adventure. What I like best about the song, though, is that it’s got this whimsy to it that really feels like a loose and enjoyable adventure. “Walking down those roads I shouldn’t go…” Far too many of us can relate to this. Not only that, the sonic structure is similarly loose, almost feeling a little west coast in its surfer pop tone. Oh… and not to spoil anything… but the horns will absolutely melt you!
“Money and guns ain’t gonna help me fight loneliness…” That’s the fantastic opening line of the anthemic “One Night Stands,” a song that sounds like it could have come out of the ideological category of Hank Williams Sr. It’s got that brooding, weighty confessional tone. Beyond that, though, there’s a certain contemporary relevance to the way the sound feels. It would be perfect for a television spot or something; it’s a complex and deeply rewarding song about the difficulties of coping with heartache amidst ordinary life.
“White Shoes” is a piano tune that immediately gives me pause. It’s probably my favorite on a really stellar album. It’s not the Billy Joel kind of piano, but more of a prayerful expression. In fact, it makes me wonder if Marie Danielle might have a bit of experience playing sacred music. The pacing, phrasing, and feeling of the song is certainly in that vein. It’s a beautiful song about dedication to a lover and it’s perfectly serious.
“Slave Ships” is another song that allows Marie Danielle’s vocals to be the featured piece. It’s a more narrative style than some of the other tracks in a good way. It’s a tragic song about a woman giving herself to a man who certainly doesn’t deserve her. The final track “All Roads Lead Home” brings a bluesy tone to the album, finishing with an artfully nostalgic reflection on a past relationship. The layered harmonies and eerie minor chords in those vocals really make the song stand out on a solid overall album.
This album is sure to make a lot of fans for Marie Danielle. It is an accomplishment of the highest order to put together so many thoughtful and engaging tracks. You’ll find yourself wrestling with a wide range of emotions from envy and love to despair and a healthy dose of regret. It’s the kind of album that won’t let you get away, but you’ll be glad you were forced to stay and wrestle with some of the hard stuff. The silky voice is gentle as it chastises and convicts you to be a better person.