On the most arresting track of Hazeldine’s fourth album, Shawn Barton daydreams about watching people react to her face on a billboard on Los Angeles’ fabled Sunset Strip: “People passing by will look at her and wonder who she is/People passing by will look at me and wonder who I am.”
That your average Joe in the street has no clue about Barton or Hazeldine is a damned shame. Better-appreciated overseas than here at home, Hazeldine has toiled in undeserved obscurity in the U.S. for years. Double Back is the group’s latest shot at changing that, and it’s by far the best that Barton and her bandmates Tonya Lamm and Anne Tkach have ever sounded. The most rocking, too.
Always-reliable producer Chris Stamey surrounds the core trio with superb musical backup, including Dag guitarist Brian Dennis and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster. They provide perfect aural settings for the vocal tandem of Lamm and Barton, whose voices sound as pure, purty and wide-open as the New Mexico desert from whence they once came.
Comfortably well-arranged but not fancy, Double Back is a very elemental album. The images that keep coming up are sunlight, dark, heat, cold, fire, stars, moon, dust, sky, bodies of water (rivers, oceans, wells) and various kinds of quiet. There are also a lot of hellos, good-byes, horses, and letters written though not necessarily sent.
Like the friendships that last the longest, Double Back is inviting enough to keep you coming back without revealing all of its charms at once. It’s more than worth the time.