Halley DeVestern,
Sugar Free
(DeVestunes, 1997)

Halley DeVestern's Sugar Free offers straight-up blues-rock with attitude. The songs are, for the most part, more than a little angry, and De Vestern does not attempt to soften them up one bit -- hence the "sugar-free" album title. Her vocals are either hit or miss: either you dig them or you don't. When DeVestern sings, she belts it out. (Her vocals have been compared repeatedly with Janis Joplin's, so if Joplin's singing style doesn't turn your crank, chances are you may not like Halley's.)

The songs on the album are pretty aggressive and may scare the unprepared listener, because Halley really does look like a nice girl on the album pictures. But she is not ashamed of who she is, as she deliberately remarks in one of her songs, "I'm too scary for you." So be warned: this is not your typical female songwriter.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can look at these songs (in which blood appears to play an important thematic role). Simply listening to their titles may give you an idea of what to expect; some examples include "Animal," "I'll Light Myself on Fire (if you pour the gasoline)" and "Ring of Love" -- which is about a woman who is pushed a little too far by "her man" and decides to solve the problem with a gun (hooray for the second amendment). Then there's "She Is a Bitch" -- pretty self-explanatory (because sometimes things like this need to be said ... or yelled). This is actually one of the better songs, since it really seems to suit DeVestern's style; she really sinks her teeth into it. She comes in with an innocent voice during the bridge and explains, "Now there ain't nothing wrong with having a little ambition, and self confidence is a fine thing ... but this chick is so full of herself she's coming out of her own ass." Elegant, isn't it?

So this album is not for the faint-hearted, but it is good for those who want to get a little something off their chest. Or a lot off their chest, actually. And if you don't like it, I'm sure she could tell you of numerous places you could go and tell someone who cares.

[ by Patrick Derksen ]
Rambles: 25 June 2001

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