Dre goes deeper still

The concept of music without an intellectual point has always been a difficult one, particularly in an era when most of the music netting radio play and commercial success is both vapid and intellectually vacuous. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for beer-swilling rock ’n’ roll, but rather that this genre sometimes does not compare to music with some kind of emotional, spiritual or intellectual resonance.

The flip side of the coin is “message music,” which so often can seem like the blathering of soapbox preachers, ruminating on the flavor of the week to the like-minded choir. This has been the failing of many a politically minded folk singer, from Bob Dylan to Ani diFranco: Ultimately, the message is spent on the ears of those who always agree; the singer gets a few nice rounds of applause and those in the audience return home with the smug grins of the truly righteous.

Dre is a local folk singer who rides the fine line between message and soapbox; she’s a local voice of feminist activism. As her recent sold-out CD-release show at Capitol Garage attested, Dre’s talent lies not only in her voice and songwriting but also in her message. Dre was accompanied by Teresa Esguerra (of Local Honey) on drums, and the reaction of her (mostly female) fans—ranging from enraptured silence to spontaneous outbursts of cheering and applause—attested to her skill and her ability to echo the sentiments of her audience.

Dre is essentially a singer-songwriter, her style coming directly from crossover folkies like Shawn Colvin. As such, Dre is absolutely superb. It is only when her material slips too heavily into the polemic that there are cracks in the songwriting armor. If there is a fault here, it’s that Dre too often appeals to simple emotional response rather than logic and intellect. She can and does appeal to her fans and friends. But writing a song about, say, the evils of rape or the importance of having a positive body image should not really be confused with taking any kind of political stand. After all, who is going to disagree?

Despite these criticisms, Dre certainly can stand on her talent. Her new CD, Another Casualty, attests to this. It’s the debut release from Deeper Still Records, a record company formed by Dre and local activists Maryanne Henke and Jane Harrington. According to Dre, the concept of the record company “encapsulates the concept of a woman’s strength and power running ‘deeper still,’ beyond any intention of man or whatever to diminish and oppress us. That reads as kind of man-negative, but it’s not.”

Either way, Dre is clearly in a class all by herself, and the next few years should hone that talent into a fine, sharp edge. Keep your eyes and ears open or check out www.deeperstillrecords.com for information on the new CD and show dates.