With her debut album, Nowhere Sounds Lovely, Italian-born Cristina Vane trains her outsider’s eye on America. Drawing on a number of guitar styles, including acoustic fingerpicking, coruscating electric, and her specialty—slide guitar that shifts smoothly from spare to a powerful tsunami—Vane tries to find what makes this patchwork quilt of a country tick.
The Princeton-educated, current Nashville resident draws on early blues, Appalachian rambles, and Western waltzes to essay her emotional roadmap of America, even repurposing some well-known song titles. Not the Fats Domino hit, “Blueberry Hill” is an original propelled by Vane’s winding electric bolstered by her slide guitar’s arching accents. The tune details a southland both mythic and mundane, with motel breezeways populated by spiders and snakes. Vane’s elegant whiplash slide entwines with her bent-note acoustic in “Travelin’ Blues,” her manifesto to finding America beyond the interstate. She also evokes the Dakota “Badlands,” mythologized as sacred native ground as well as Wounded Knee killing fields, with electric guitar that whips like a prairie wind.
Vane changes guitars and styles with each setting. Her wailing, locomotive slide circles screech-owl fiddle in “Heaven Bound Station,” and her rugged but violence-prone dream lover is embodied in “Dreamboy” by her growling electric guitar. Behind Vane’s guitars and vocals, the sound is ably filled out by a group that includes drummer Cactus Moser (who also produced), bassist Dow Tomlin, fiddle player Nate Leath, and pedal steel player Tommy Hannum.
Vane’s road trip shoots for self-discovery. “You gotta get lost to get your feet back on the ground,” she sings in “Traveling Blues.” Along the way she encounters America through rain-spattered windshields, ramshackle motels, and roadside honky-tonks. But the landscape is inspiring–and it floats by like a dream.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.