Noelle & The Deserters - High Desert Daydream

Speakeasy Studios SF


If you’re looking for a new honky-tonk sweetheart, then you’ve found one in Noelle Fiore, who grew up in Taos, New Mexico, currently lives in California and comes sauntering out of the painted desert on a Palomino like a singin’ cowgirl from the days of old, seducing you with a sweet, heartfelt soprano with the most perfect country warble. She’s backed up by an impressive band, too. At times, they veer into riffs on country-rock or western swing, always keeping Noelle front-and-centre, as their lead cowgirl for a full package of timeless country music excellence with a slight modern twist. Like Eilen Jewell, Eleni Mandell, and relative newcomers Beth Lee and Michaela Anne, among others, Noelle who penned all ten songs on this debut album, has discerningly mined various genres, sculpting her own multifaceted sound. There’s a mushrooming scene, especially on the West Coast, of young women giving classic country music a kick up the backside as they embrace real life struggles, without any sugar-coating or pop-sweetening. She entrances with her stories of ordinary people just like us, facing the same challenges and losses, the same comforts and victories, the same hard lessons that life lays in our paths, and she compels attention because of her heart-on-her-sleeve honesty. With Noelle Fiore, you know you’re seeing and hearing the person behind the song, laying her heart and emotions out there for all to share and learn from. Her voice, a two-ton barbell, swings across timeless melodies, often vigorous, always lilting and sweet.

HIGH DESERT DAYDREAM is a road trip’s perfect companion, especially if you’re out on the open road and soaking up the scenery. To listen to the songs, this album doesn’t seem too far outside the middle lane of Americana; smart lyrics, throwback classic country vocals, and blue-collar themes all wound neatly around colourful western panoramas. Canyon is a nostalgic reminisce of growing up in New Mexico, with feelings of loss and a longing for the past. The song cleverly maps out a drive back home that blows by all the notorious crossroads of life as David Cuetter’s ethereal steel guitar wafts sweetly in the background. At first glance, Watching Billboards Change is another ‘road song,’ but with Cuetter’s steel working in tandem with Norwood’s lead guitar, Noelle delivers a catchy song about the frustrations of the life of a working musician trying to make it in a tough profession. Small town Mexican desert comes alive with picturesque images in the sprawling Taos, conjuring both the rumbling energy of the city nightlife and the wide-open vistas of the American west.

This record can be lullaby-like one moment, then echoes the band’s expansive sound, especially Born In The Morning, a ferocious break-up song given a vibrant honky-tonkin’ treatment a la Emmylou’s Luxury Liner, with some impressive chicken-pickin’ guitar and wild pedal steel. They pull some Waylon out of their side pocket as that distinctive back-beat unwinds and Graham Norwood’s swirling lead guitar feeds into Some Men, whilst the 1950s-styled Church Of Dog finds them referencing early Patsy Cline, especially in Noelle’s vocal phrasing. Inspired by an Emmylou Harris quote, this showcases their more humorous side. Noelle’s slow burning, achingly plaintive A Way Back is literally otherworldly; a mix of unabashed hunger and seductive mystery as she pleads to a former lover that it’s not really over. Dark undertones are buried deep in the arrangement of Now I’ve Got You, a gothic murder ballad. Noelle’s borderline evil vocal inosculates around the dark and heavy riffs, as she accidentally takes revenge on a cheatin’ partner without too much regret. This is an album full of contrasts that makes for compelling listening. An impressive debut that bodes well for the future.

May 2024