There are independent artists, and then there are "really" independent artists. Esmerelda Strange (who "specializes" in simultaneously playing the accordion and the drums while she sings) isn't just independent, she's rootless... a friendly outsider wandering about the US looking for other folks of offbeat vision.
Her most recent release is "Strange Encounters with Esmerelda Strange" and listening to it is like being submerged in Esmeredla's psyche. Don't worry you won't be alone in there.. Unlike her previous recording ("Introducing Esmerlda Strange") she plays with several guests on this CD. But she never overdoes it, never throws off her balance by having more than one additional instrumentalist per tune.
You can find guitar players (Caleb Schaber, Mike McKevitt), bass masters (Dani Girl Waters, Tim "Big Daddy" Anderson), violinists & theremin players (Julea Klems & Erin Perusse) even a couple of whistlers (engineer/producer Eryk Dyna, and Laird "also plays trombone on this album" Rickard) all on this collection.. not never more than one per song. Ms Strange is still center stage, she's just learned how to play (well) with others.
It's not just the guests that lend a new complexity to the tunes. Esmerelda has also chosen to perform songs that she didn't write on "Strange Encounters...". Caleb Schaber returns as the creator of "Little Green Spacemen", "Besame Mucho" is by Consuelo Valequez, the interpretation of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" smacks of experienced authenticity and her version of "Daisy Bell" is almost as creepy as HAL singing it in "2001". Given her transient nature it makes sense for her to include a performance of the standard "Wayfaring Stranger".
Her choice in covers only begins to sketch the territory of Esmerelda's mind. From her own pen she brings us tales of two headed cows, gay boyfriends, the self involved, shit talkers and semi-truckers. None of the narratives go exactly where you expect them to. But that's plus, she is strange after all and it would be disappointing if all the oddness was a façade.
Obviously Esmerelda Strange isn't everybody's cup of white-lightening laced home-brewed coffee. She clearly cares more about heart and vision than virtuosity and the recoding style is resolutely, almost devoutly, low fi. But for those who love gritty, wart-and-all, bedroom recordings there's strange encounters aplenty to enjoy.