Record Review - 1 August 22 2001

Livonia, Mich.-based sonic alchemists His Name Is Alive have been around since 1989, when leader and multi-instrumentalist Warn Defever got together with Karin Oliver and Damian Lang, scoring a record deal with late-'80s haute indie 4AD. The band His Name Is Alive, however, has never properly existed. A constantly shifting collective gathered on each album by Defever to suit the mood — previously ranging from dream pop and collaged tape loop manipulation to effects-laden guitar thunder — HNIA incorporate almost 10 separate contributions on the group's latest album, Someday My Blues Will Cover The Earth, but this time it's really just Defever and singer Lovetta Pippen's show.

Even for HNIA fans used to their hairpin stylistic changes, listeners may be surprised by Someday my Blues Will Cover the Earth, because it's the first HNIA album that actually sticks to a singular style. Pippen sang in the gospel choir featured on His Name Is Alive's 1996 album Stars on ESP, and was brought back as a featured vocalist on their last album, 1998's Ft. Lake. For Someday, however, Defever taps Pippen to carry the entire soul and R&B-influenced album, and she succeeds admirably at the undertaking.

While tracks on Ft. Lake flirted with the fringes of R&B — such as the Hendrix-steeped "Wish I Had a Wishing Ring" — it still comes as a surprise to get an entire album full of hypnotic, honey-dipped jazzy vocals, infectious funk and sensuous syncopated programming. But what's most surprising is how heartfelt and effectively atmospheric songs end up, considering Defever's dramatic shift in focus. The collective title His Name Is Alive fits, because Someday my Blues Will Cover the Earth is a testimonial to the greater power of soul.

His Name Is Alive plays the Echo Lounge Fri., Aug. 24.??