Her new album, "Rise and Fall," deals with love, loss, and complicated versions of those emotions.
Rise and Fall is Dayna Kurtz’s first album of new material in four years, and in that time she went through a lot—a death, a marriage ending, a relocation to New Orleans, and a few albums that, like the Ponderosa Stomp, investigate rock ’n’ roll’s back pages. On those albums--Secret Canon volumes 1 and 2-- Kurtz was drawn to songs that have something specific about them, usually a deft, precise way to an emotional thought, and that characterizes her own songs here. When she sings, “you’re not what I want / but you’re all that I need,” the moment isn't resigned or wanton. Instead, it's a moment of understanding that accepts impermanence.
Throughout the album, Kurtz sings with a soul singer’s warmth that tempers the negotiated nature of desire that she examines on the album. It’s no longer something she romanticizes; instead, Kurtz embraces its complexities and contradictions, and she does so with a vocal beauty that keeps the bleakest moments from seeming hopeless. She knows desire is not something to celebrate without reservation because it comes with costs and trade-offs, but it's something to revel in nonetheless.
She gets her emotional ass kicked at times and feels it, and not surprisingly, loss factors significantly on Rise and Fall. “The Hole” and “You’ll Always Live Inside of Me” deal with death, and while both are intimate, neither feels like we’re snooping in Kurtz’s journal. Details keep the songs on the up side of therapy, and lines connect us to the tracks, particularly to “The Hole.” “I’m looking at all of the room that I’ve saved / for more holes to be dug by somebody some day,” she sings, including us in the ritual and moment.
Kurtz doesn’t tiptoe in her music, so almost everything on Rise and Fall has impact. She sings the apocalyptic drinking song “Raise the Last Glass” with the gusto of someone who drank her way past fear and self-consciousness. Her emotions are complex, but they’re also tangible. Nothing is poker-faced. That intensity can be daunting, and the largely acoustic backing means nothing competes with her performance. That intensity also makes her memorable, which Kurtz certainly is on Rise and Fall.
Dayna Kurtz will play a CD-release party Friday night at the Allways Lounge at 10 p.m. with Robert Mache, James Singleton, Carlo Nuccio, and special guests.