As her triumphant origin story goes, once upon a musical time, folk-rocker (emphasis on the rocker) Diana Chittester had her heart set on sharing the deep storytelling brilliance inside of her as an English teacher. Then she heard Ani DiFranco’s epic 1997 live album Living in Clip. Her decision to use her powerful voice as a vehicle to express vulnerability and determination, loneliness, struggle and overcoming was a fortuitous one.
In recent years, the Cleveland based singer-songwriter has received a solid array of encouraging accolades. In their review of her first full length album In This Skin (2012), Music Connection noted her “intelligent and articulate lyrics.” Her deft acoustic fingerpicking and ukulele skills earned her “guitar god” status from Skinny Devil magazine and praise as a “complex guitar acrobat” by Artvoice. She tours regularly in the U.S. and Canada, including folk-rock venues such as The Ark, Music Box Supper Club, Rockwood Music Hall and Performing Arts Centers across the Midwest.
In just six songs, Chittester’s new EP Paradox artfully and deeply explores every raw emotion under the proverbial heartfelt sun, taking us from the darkest despair of isolation and helplessness to a sense that all will be resolved and our hearts will bust the chains that have limited our lives far too long. The opening track freedom is an anthem she wrote on the uke after attending a party where her friends lamented about being trapped in their jobs and current lives. Giving us our first earful of the singer’s passionate vocal intensity – which compares favorably to Alanis Morissette in her prime and at her most primal - the song turns from a lighthearted acoustic romp to a blistering rocker on a dime. It offers a glimpse of hope, that we all have what it takes to make to run wild, follow our hearts and take the necessary steps towards happiness.
The upside of the EP began taking shape with “On My Own,” a rollicking, blues-rock infused mission statement of sorts which declares her undying commitment to pursuing her dreams, something she has committed her lifetime to. Then she taps into a darker mode, creating a true paradox for the listener. The feisty rocker “In the Middle” comes from a place of pain and the need to settle scores for herself and others who have been wronged, while “Thy Will Be Done” is a haunting bit of raw acoustic melancholy, frustration and exasperation rising in her distorted vocal, as she laments the ongoing violence in America and the need for more amazing grace.
The gently hypnotic, very folky “Cry” is essentially an invitation to do just that, about the pain of her own coming out relived via the fear and sorrow of one of her workshop students going through the same thing. It’s perhaps the most cathartic four minutes you will ever spend. Another moment of mixed sadness, redemption and peace-seeking is the heartfelt title track, which finds the singer looking back fondly yet sadly on a love gone by, simply needing validation that her former lover truly did love her.
Chittester’s ongoing emergence as an indie artist will make you glad that she heard that Ani DiFranco album back in the day and chose, as she sings with grit and conviction on “On My Own,” to discover “how bold and brave crazy can be.”
DIANA CHITTESTER, Paradox
November 4, 2018 | Jonathan Widran