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Starting in the early 00s, transgendered harpist/singer/performance artist Baby Dee has made a handful of eerily beautiful, assumption-challenging albums. They have mostly been issued on David Tibet's Durtro label, fitting enough since, for many people, the first inkling of Baby Dee came in the Current 93 album Black Ships Ate the Sky. There, Baby Dee was one of eight artists to interpret the old hymn "Idumea," her tremulous voice as gender neutral as an angel's, against a shivering background of harp. 

All the "Idumea" songs were lovely, but Baby Dee's had a kind of peace snatched out of turmoil, a sublimeness dug out of personal suffering that made it indelible. Her new album (and pronouns are a bit of a problem when describing Baby Dee) is more secular but just as strange and engrossing, linking vaudevillian jollity with something essentially tragic. You know a good bit about this album when you recognize that the jauntiest, jazziest cut on it is named "The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities," and that when you show your teeth in a smile at Baby Dee, what she sees, mainly, is bones. 

There's an unsettling mix of high and low in this album, a semi-autobiographical opus recorded with the help of Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney. Alongside the gospel-like intensity of the title track, you'll find the old-time jazz slink of "The Earlie King," and right next to the piano bar sophistication of "Fresh out of Candles," there is the distinctly naughty "Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)".  You're never quite sure when the album is going to veer from haunting spiritual search to rib-nudging bawdiness. In the liner notes, Baby Dee observes, "I was good at the sacred and I was good at the profane but I could never get the hang of anything in between." And that's about the sum of it. 

The best cuts here bob and swagger insouciantly, old-time jazzy arrangements of string bass, drums and strings supporting Baby Dee's distinctive voice. "Teeth Are the Only Bones that Show" is the highlight with its Dixieland danse macabre strut, but "Dance of Diminishing Possibilities" is just about as good, jittery nostalgia laced with offhand acerbic cleverness. "There's a harp inside that piano / There's a boy inside that girl," sings Baby Dee, in a verse as disturbing as it is demonstrably true. Nothing is what it seems here, but there are truths reflected in funhouse mirrors that you can't see any other way. 
• Jennifer Kelly

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