Album Review

Grey DeLisle - Iron Flowers

Grey DeLisle - Iron Flowers

It shouldn't be so simple. Grey DeLisle opens Iron Flowers with an absolutely convincing murder-ballad interpretation of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", and just like that, she's the next alt-country chanteuse to watch. Iron Flowers makes it nearly impossible to look away. Daring as that opening is, it is performed impeccably; her version ends where the original lurched into bombast. The album fabricates a spectacle of DeLisle yawing around the axis of her eccentricities -- her expertise on the autoharp, to cite a potent example -- but her craft and, indeed, craftiness ensure that she'll never decisively tip toward lunacy. She surrounds herself with people who have considerable experience in casting her particular illusion. Lone Justice founder Marvin Etzioni, who produced her 2004 disc The Graceful Ghost, returns behind the board, adding occasional songwriting and instrumental assistance. Fairport Convention's Dave Mattacks plays some drums; Greg Leisz is on steel guitar; and the Old 97's Murry Hammond (DeLisle's husband) plays bass. Yet DeLisle remains the center of the strangeness, her voice capable of both kittenish fragility and tigerish ferocity. From the power-pop references of "Right Now" to the haggard rockabilly gospel of Rev. Charlie Jackson's "God's Got It" to the bluegrassy honky-tonk of "The Bloody Bucket", she commands attention born of simultaneous desire and fear. This is what she holds in common with Lucinda Williams and Neko Case, and such mysterious, dangerous allure is not so simple.