To my ears, Carla Bozulich is one of the most recognizable female vocalists of the past twenty years or so. She's sang for groups as widely varying as Ethyl Meatplow, The Geraldine Fibbers and Scarnella and has performed with Willie Nelson on her cover album of his songs The Red-Headed Stranger. She's also created mixed-media installations, done performance art, and written scores for independent films such as By Hook Or By Crook.
If you've never heard Bozulich sing, the performance artist reference is important to keep in mind, as she's a singer who always wears her heart on her sleeve. Evangelista might very well be her most wild album yet, sounding something like a haunted song-cycle punctuated with mini-exorcisms and encouraged with a few small moments of hope. Making a bold statement, the album opens with the longest, most ambitious track in the album-titled "Evangelista." Clocking in at almost ten minutes, the track mixes creaky, filtered loops, wrenching strings, a field recording of a preacher from the 1930s, and some wheezy organ. Meanwhile, Bozulich is all over the place, moving from a whisper to almost spoken word style vocals to pained screams.
"Steal Away" is a rendition of a traditional song, and after the overpowering opener, it wisely backs off to a hymn-like feel, moving forward piano, contra bass, guitars, and organ while Bozulich adds soulfull vocals. It's right back into the maelstrom on "How To Survive Getting Hit By Lightning," though, and drums make one of their only appearances on the disc as the static-filled track weaves through six uneasy minutes without gaining much of a real foothold.
Bozulich does a great cover of Low's "Pissing" on the album, which seems to bring even more dynamics and searing power to the table than the original. Unfortunately, the track also illustrates the main problem of the album being very unfocused in places. Bozulich is a powerful vocalist and manages to keep things going pretty well through sheer gusto alone, but it's too often that the album seems content to try to get by on weird atmospherics alone. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in Evangelista, but that alone doesn't always make it a great release.