In June 2000, Diana Darby released her debut album, Naked Time. Influenced by Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, and with an ear for 60’s influenced melody and strangeness, the songs were a mix of dazed beauty and bitter-sweetness. Veteran players Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Lisa Loeb, Laura Cantrell) and Will Rigby (The D.B.’s, Steve Earle) fleshed out the album, throwing Diana squarely into the Americana spotlight and garnering her a feature on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Critics were wowed, and Diana was immediately hailed as a new voice worthy of attention. A successful U.S. tour followed, with Diana’s songs put in heavy rotation at KEXP in Seattle, Wa., as well as picked up by Starbucks.
Her sophomore album, Fantasia Ball, was released in 2003. Recorded at home on a 4-track cassette, Fantasia Ball was a quiet departure from Naked Time. An introspective trip, delicate and lo-fi, calling to mind Kendra Smith or Hope Sandoval. Diana’s Forever-Changed-Neo-Samba “Summer”, and her perfectly chosen cover of 1965 Rolling Stones tune “Blue Turns to Grey”, caught the ears of new listeners in the U.S. as well as listeners abroad. One of those new listeners was Andrea Pomini, who ran “Love Boat Records” in Italy. Already a fan of Diana’s version of “Jesus Was a Capricorn” on “Nothing Left to Lose,” a Kris Kristofferson tribute album, Pomini was eager to bring Diana to Italy. A release of Fantasia Ball on his label, and a successful month long tour of Italy followed. Diana’s starkly beautiful music transcended any potential language barriers, resulting in teary-eyed Italians from Sicily to Milan. She toured the U.S. as well when she returned from Italy. “Time Out NY” wrote about Diana -“Quiet is the new quiet.” Nowhere was this more evident than when she performed at the legendary Maxwell’s in Hoboken. The audience was so rapt and attentive, the infamous backroom felt more like a chapel than a raucous nightclub.
In 2005, The Magdalene Laundries, was released. This time, Diana pushed the envelope of her artistry one step further, playing every instrument on the album. The result was Diana’s most confessional album to date, an unadorned emotionally devastating listening experience. Raw and beautiful, the album’s many highlights include “Let Her Run Free,” “Black Swan”, and “No Leaving Now,” which let the listener know that they will indeed be on a ride with Diana from which there will be no escape.
Six long years would pass before Diana would make another album. In 2011, she returned to New York with an armload of new songs ready to record. Guitar and vocals were tracked live, and additional instrumentation was added in Nashville. Diana’s long awaited fourth album, I.V. (intravenous), proves her whispers are more chilling than any scream. A subtle literate masterpiece, that pulls all the elements together into one cohesive dream, with top-notch studio players (Viktor Krause, Dan Dugmore and David Henry) helping to realize Diana’s vision. I. V. (intravenous) presents an artist with a disarmingly plaintive voice, capable of getting deep inside her listeners’ veins. Songs, such as the six-minute plus confessional “Heaven”, which begins with the line, “My mother tells me I will go to Hell”, the purple-hazed Icelandic beauty of “Snow, Cover Me” and the morphine induced “Spinning”, all reveal an artist willing to expose the dark belly of emotions few others would dare to touch. In “The Alphabet”, Diana shows off her musical versatility with a jazz cafe vibe, as well as her lyrical gifts with lines like, “I was the first line of your poem, you were my last. Love is a syncopated note that fades too fast.” “Ugly Little Toad”, a Kurosawa inspired allegory, reveals yet another side of Diana – her political one. “The toad is a metaphor for the larger countries in this world who dominate their weaker neighbors. It is a commentary on our gluttonous nature as a whole,” she says. “Ugly little toad, where you gonna go, when your pool is dry and you’ve swallowed every fly.” It is a question Diana leaves unanswered allowing her listener to ponder its relevancy. Diana’s uncanny ability to observe, and to find art in all that she sees, makes her an artist worth hearing and knowing about. She has a way of making the world stand still, and in that stillness finding the dark, the vulnerable, the moments most would simply pass by, if they weren’t stopping to listen.