Few are the songwriters that can capture even a small portion of the breadth of the modern human experience in one small collection of songs. But those that do are the ones destined for greatness.
Melaena Cadiz is one such songwriter.
The Michigan-bred, Brooklyn-based artist has been bringing small portraits plucked from the American landscape using the language of folk, pop, and country to bring them to beautiful, breathing life.
On her latest album Deep Below Heaven, the songs have a literary quality to them, a notion that embraced in the LP’s title, which comes from a short story written by writer/playwright/actor Sam Shepard.
“Part of the story involves a man in a motorcycle accident,” Cadiz says. “As he falls from his Kawasaki, he has the sense of ‘being deep below heaven. The distance. The wetness of flesh. Metal ripping. People helplessly apart.’ To me, it evoked the idea of us humans swarming the earth with all our love and sadness, our desires and defeats.”
The young singer-songwriter used this jumping off point to create 10 songs that are filled with finely wrought characters that are striving for a better place in the world or, at the very least, a way to quiet the deep ache within their bones. There’s the young person heading for the West Coast to “find what I’ve been looking for” in “Home Town,” the jilted lover looking for answers in “Swinging Low,” and the friends, driving home late one night, and singing Leonard Cohen songs to each other in “Neon Drag.”
As detailed as the lyrics are, that same level of attention is paid to the music within. Produced by Alex Foote, Cadiz and her backing band prove agile in the ways of shuffling bootstompers (“Keep It”), contemplative porch swinging (“Home Town”), and melting into the smoke hanging above a neon-lit bar (“Dreams”). Let’s not forget Cadiz’s voice, which can, within the space of one song, coo you into quietude and rattle your bones with its volume and power. It’s an incredible instrument that she has remarkable control over.
Like a great book, this is an album to get completely lost in, to put on your stereo and not come up for air until the last notes fade away. And it offers up ample detail to explore with each successive listen. Settle in your favorite chair with a cup of tea or stiff drink in hand and let Melaena Cadiz transport you to her world of rich characters and richer musicianship.
Deep Below Heaven came out on May 20th, 2014 on Wild Kindness Records.