California country singer-songwriter Alice Wallace is back with her fourth album, as "Into the Blue" marks her debut for the female-owned Rebelle Road label, a group intent on giving women a stronger platform in music. Wallace has a deeply emotive voice that conveys the imagery of California on several songs, notably "Santa Ana Winds," where her soaring soprano captures the intensity and drama of the wild fires with driving guitars, pulsating rhythms and a flute to symbolize the wind. Her ballad side comes forth in the equally vivid "Echo Canyon."
Using a combination of classic country and more contemporary techniques, Wallace tackles some serious subjects. She collaborates with songwriter Andrew Delaney on four co-writes including "Santa Ana Winds." On the Delaney-penned "Elephants," she wants to give voice to women who refuse to be "quiet as a mouse in a room full of elephants." Yet, she proves to be strong on her originals too, as on "Desert Rose," about a refugee woman's journey to give her child a better life across the border.
The title track stands out as its anthemic stance becomes an underpinning for the album. It describes Wallace's own struggles to overcome her fears to become a traveling troubadour. The layered harmonies feature her father, mother and brother. As you listen, the buoyancy is so striking you can picture Wallace smiling.
The balance between the serious subject matter and the more romantic, lighthearted material makes for a good mix. For example, "Motorcycle Ride" evokes a female perspective on Neil Young's "Unknown Legend." Like that one, it opens with a diner scene. Her voice runs the gamut from tender to powerful. Make no mistake, she can wail with the best of country singers as she does on "Top of the World."