No one thinks of Los Angeles as a country music city. Los Angeles is a city drenched in steamy asphalt roads, overpacked with tin cars on an eternal idle. The urban sprawl is a desolate kingdom of industrialization. This is the city that gave birth to the heavy metal music that crawled its way out of the sleaze and grime of its underbelly. It gave birth to a massive hip-hop culture that rebelled against the forced environment of the low-income slums. It is not a city that brings to mind the heartfelt twang of an acoustic guitar. But ultimately, Los Angeles is a desert. Long before the skyscrapers, celebrities, and traffic nightmares, it was a western town snuggled up against a sandy beach. If you rip off the superficial covering, underneath you’ll discover that country is LA’s heart and soul.
Marie Danielle is not a country artist. She is an LA artist. Even though she’s originally from the East Coast, her sound is born from the rich musical tapestry that makes LA such a layered bastion of musical expression. On her new album, Hustler, Marie embodies all the great emotional baggage coursing through LA’s veins. The album opens with the heartbreaking “Tinseltown” subtly crafted with a hint of Don Henley’s lonely howl. On “Dreary Head” there is an inescapable Brian Wilson loveliness. “One Night Stands” is sprinkled with Beck’s heart wrenching desperation of feeling alone in a crowded room. There’s Exene’s boldness, Rivers’ introspection, and even a touch of swagger from GNR Lies on the album’s essential song, “Soldier.” Each of Danielle’s song has its own identity, but Hustler as an album is even better than the sum of its parts.
Hustler‘s crowning achievement is its ability to evolve over multiple listens. Upon first pass, it hooks you with its sensitivity. But with repeat visits, the listener is able to peel back the layers discovering emotional peaks and valleys tucked inside the melodies. For every moment of hope there’s an air of darkness. For every downfall there’s a smile. For every fluffy cloud there’s a silver nitrate lining. It’s a conflict-laden journey with Danielle’s sultry vixen-esque voice, guiding you along with its alluring seduction. Her intimate tone wraps you in a comfortable blanket, holding you close as if you’re the only one this album is made for. The album’s major appeal is how personal it feels. Marie Danielle is everyone. She’s your neighbor, she’s your sister, she’s your ex-girlfriend. She is your confident, yet, in this moment, she’s confiding in you.
Being a musical artist in LA means you have to be a fighter. Playing shows in LA means competing against narcissistic Angelenos who would rather hear the sound of their own voice than bother listening. The artist must power over them…over the selfies and status updates. To successfully come up in this atmosphere, an artist must have internal strength and tenacity. It is a war of attrition and those who survive are stronger from it.
Marie Danielle’s album, Hustler, is a must. It is the summer mixtape for that long drive up the coast or the late night drive to Vegas. It will accompany you after a break-up and be your fan on a first date. If you’re still reading this review and haven’t purchased it yet…well, you’re wasting your time.