REVIEW: Cristina Vane “Nowhere Sounds Lovely” Is Best Guitar Record This Year So Far


Ever wanted to look at this country through fresh eyes. Not socially or politically, but the actual land and its people? Singer-songwriter Cristina Vane, born and raised in Europe by a Sicilian-American father and a Guatemalan mother, waited until after college at Princeton and four years working in Los Angeles before packing up her trusty resonator guitar and exploring the full breadth of America. The songs that resulted from driving, exploring and playing across the US populate her full length debut, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, a musical roadmap that also happens to be the best guitar record I’ve heard so far this year.

While much of the album has Vane on the road, the first track looks at one of America’s archetypes – the good-hearted bad boy. “Dreamboy” gives us a guy who’s smart and a bit brooding – “Got a slow deep drawl, when he talks he cares” – but not to be trifled with – “Don’t f@ck with him, he’s quick on the draw” (picturing a young Raylan Givens here). That casual roguishness is punctuated by a quick, unfussy slide guitar solo from Vane – much like her imaginary man, she doesn’t waste a note.

Vane’s look at our landscape begins in earnest with “Dreaming of Utah,” a delicate, plaintive ode to her new favorite place. Full of gorgeous harmonies and pedal steel (from Tommy Hannum), the song reflects Vane’s pull back to what seems to her a mythical place – “How the mountains start waiting, the minute you’re gone” – and the ways in which those special places help define us – “How my feet lead me closer to a little self-worth.” Vane addresses her travels from behind the wheel in “Driving Song.” Spare and haunting until her band kicks fully in, the singer, like many of us, uses driving as medicine – “I drive so long that I can’t think/Drive out the parts of me I like the least.” “Travelin’ Blues” gives us the happier side of that road worn coin. Driven by acoustic guitar and Dobro (again from Hannum), Vane’s love for the highway gives us 2021’s most tattooable lyric – “Nowhere sounds lovely, well I’d sure like to go there.”

Vane’s got more destinations on her mind. “Blueberry Hill” finds the wonder in the transition from the swampiness of New Orleans to the myth and mystery of Taos, New Mexico – “When the hot wet air becomes the desert again.” “Wishing Bone Blues” is a dark look at the singer’s time in California, trying to fight inertia – “I left my wishes for dead/Smoked them clean out of my head.” And the album wraps with “Badlands,” which has Vane trying to contemplate the deadly sparseness of the prairie felt by its first settlers – “You may freeze, you may burn/But each season must come and have its turn.” As slide guitar and fiddle swirl about, you can imagine Vane’s own initial look at that harsh landscape, just before it reaches the beautiful, remote pinnacles and spires of the titular national park. If, as this pandemic slowly draws to a close, you feel a need to see these wonders with new vision, consider Nowhere Sounds Lovely’s guitar-filled wanderings as your guide.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Will I Ever Be Satisfied” – along with one of the appearances of Vane’s banjo, this is the most beautifully sung tune on the record.

Nowhere Sounds Lovely was produced by Cactus Moser, recorded, engineered and mixed by Rodney Dawson and mastered by Gentry Studer. Musicians on the record include Moser (percussion), Dow Tomlin (electric and double bass), Tommy Hannum (pedal steel and Dobro) and Nate Leath (fiddle).

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