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Deanna Varagona - Tangled Messages

  by John Clarkson

published: 17 / 12 / 2001



Deanna Varagona - Tangled Messages
Label: Starstar
Format: CD

intro

As one of the founding members of the Nashville collective Lambchop, Deanna Varagona has consolidated a reputation over the last few years as a talented multi-instrumentalist. She featured on baritone


As one of the founding members of the Nashville collective Lambchop, Deanna Varagona has consolidated a reputation over the last few years as a talented multi-instrumentalist. She featured on baritone sax and backing vocals on last year's successful 'Nixon' album, while an earlier incarnation of the band had her playing alto sax, banjo and cello. In the time since since 'Nixon' she has swopped instruments again to the acoustic guitar. 'Tangled Messages', her debut solo CD, expands the self-taught Varagona's reputation for musical dexterity further, and with the exceptions of the alto sax and the cello, finds her experimenting with all these instruments again and also the banjitar, the marimba, a lap steel, a mandolin, an organ and drums. While nearly all of Lambchop's songs are written by it frontman Kurt Wagner, 'Tangled Messages' also shows off and reveals hitherto Varagona's largely undiscovered abilities as a lyricist and a storyteller. 'Tangled Messages', as its title suggests, deals with duality and ambiguities. Recorded over three and a half years in Athens, Georgia ; Nashville and her home city of Chicago, it compiles together eight of Varagona's best songs and combines a country blues sound with elements of punk, jazz and folk. 'Days Pass Anyway' balances tense, textural acoustic guitarwork against the buzzsaw murmurings of a banjitar and a pedal steel guitar and describes the plight of a woman who loves her lover, but who also dreams of leaving him in the hope of finding something better. "Wonder why/Sometimes it's hard/To reach out/And touch the hand/Of those you love/And want to stay" sings Varagona in her gutsy voice, summing up in a sentence the sense of uncertainty that pervades the whole album. 'Hesitation', which throws organs, an acoustic guitar and acoustic and electric basses together to create a swirling , reflective alternative country number, takes this concept a little further and captures the late night alcoholic rantings of a girl, who lies awake alone in a bed waiting for a lover, who may or may not be out painting the town with another woman. The plaintive 'Running on Empty' meanwhile sympathetically portrays a woman whose husband has run out on her years ago, but who still hangs onto the hope that he might one day return. The album's undoubted masterpiece, however, is the six minute 'Take My Shovel', which, featuring Varagona alone on acoustic guitar and describing the anguish of a man who discovers the self-slain body of his lover, suddenly strikes away all words and encapsulates all his horror and agony and desperation by replacing them with a gutteral, raw Tuvan blues howl. Experimental, bold and unconventionally articulate, 'Tangled Messages' both builds and expands on the Lambchop myth, but also offers something different for fans waiting for their next album to come. While the album was released a year ago, and has done moderately well in the States, it has only recently, after Varagona played her first European tour supporting the Willard Grant Conspiracy in May and June, begun to attract attention in Britain and Europe. With a whole batch of other Varagona songs already recorded, let's hope that it is not another three and a half years before this extraordinary performer's second solo album comes around.



Track Listing:-
1 In Deep
2 Days Pass Away
3 Running So Long
4 Take My Shovel
5 Goodbye Kiss
6 Naked
7 Hesitation
8 Blue



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interviews


Interview (2002)
Deanna Varagona - Interview
Deanna Varagona is best known for being a member of the sprawling Nashville consortium, Lambchop. A multi instrumentalist and the only woman in the band, Varagona joined the group, shortly after its i


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