Last week, Dahlia Dumont, who performs under the moniker The Blue Dahlia, released her sophomore album La Tradition Americaine. Featuring her airy and jaunty ukelele playing, the album is a cornucopia of emotions and one that signals the arrival of an inspired and novel singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Brooklyn to a French family, Dumont is adept at singing in both French and English.
Nowhere is that more apparent than on the seven-minute title track which features fiddle, horns and moves along with a vernal frolic that is decidedly buoyant, effervescent and distinctly European. There’s hints of reggae as well, most notably on the colorful “Mai Tai” a klezmer effort that vacillates towards Caribbean dub at times, and the second take of “I See Trees Differently.” Why exactly Dumont included that song twice is anyone’s guess but the Americana version offered up earlier on the album is infinitely better and the only one that should have made the cut. That one misstep aside, the rest of La Tradition Americaine is quite fun.
“Wake Me Up” opens with a beautiful violin intro before giving way to thick, rhythmic drumming and pronounced bass. The song vaccilates towards reggae at times but the klezmer accordion takes over as the song inches along. The final flourish is a towering 3-part harmony that sounds like a Catholic choir during Holy Week. Being that “Wake Me Up” is a Yiddish poem by French klezmer singer Eleonore Biezunski that in and of itself is an accomplishment but that Dumont pulls it off as effortlessly as she does is a testament to both her and her band. The disc’s first half closes with the Mexican inflected waltz “Canal St. Martin” and the jazzy piano ballad “Reasonable.” There are not many moments on the disc in which Dumont goes above and beyond herself but exactly that happens on “Reasonable.” It is in a word: mesmerizing.
After the forgettable reggae version of “I See Trees Differently” the second half of La Tradition Americaine opens with “Blah Blah,” a nod towards folk-punk that is loose, raw and horn-laden. Bolstered by a grand chorus and an energy that is downright infectious “Blah Blah” makes good work of a song that for most artists would probably come across as filler.
Arguably the strongest song of the disc’s latter half is the romantic and downright wondrous “La Fontaine,” a near-perfect meandering that feels like a day cruise on the River Seine. Dumont and crew return to reggae on the percussive “Your Love” a moving and tender valentine that is probably the best American song sung by Dumont next to “I See Trees Differently.” After the self-indulgent and downright skippable “Influence III” Dumont returns with the intimate and mesmerizing “Plantation,” a French-sung composition that features just Dumont and her ever-present ukelele. Engaging, affecting and polished, “Plantation” is the sound of an artist firing on all cylinders. La Tradition Americaine closes with “La Reve II” a lively and inspired cut that might have made more of an impact had it been earlier in the disc. Small gripes aside, Dumont has concocted something important, unique and quite magnetic with La Tradition Americaine. Here’s hoping she comes to Florida soon!