Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Spin: Diane Birch "Bible Belt"

Rarely am I one to thank someone for an introduction to great music. A flaw I know, I’m far to consumed by whatever esoteric style has caught my fancy of the moment to often consider a recommendation. After my last visit home it became abundantly clear I have to listen to friends and family more and balance my musical exploration.


When my mom opened the package that contained the Diane Birch CD Bible Belt I was caught by the great photograph of her that acts as the cover to this impressive album. While at first glance you may want to write her off as what looks like another young singer songwriter in a long line of the same, her subtle beauty drew me in and then I was struck by the voice.

The instrumentation.

The lyrics.

With a great voice that isn’t so deep to lose her femininity yet dark enough to convey the pain one can suffer in the quest for love Bible Belt shows a young woman mature beyond her years dropping knowledge about that which we are all looking for.

While not blessed with the range of a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Diane Birch can certainly sing and reminds me slightly of Joni Mitchell. Not as whispery for sure, but subdued and calm breaking out and pushing the high notes of her range from deep within. This is singing you can feel, she is putting her soul into her voice and far too few singers convey that passion in their music these days.

Musically you are blessed with beautiful piano melodies that snap and energize right up there with any of the greats. There is intermittent organ work throughout that stood out exceptionally on the first listen (check for the reminiscent Doors melody on “Choo Choo”) and while it does prove to fade this is not to say it’s lacking – there is just so much here to enjoy you’ll be caught up in different elements on each successive listen.

"Choo Choo"

Featuring a stunning band that can rock they are just as likely to deliver a slow moving tune perfect for a relaxing evening. Filled with hints of the blues and folk music Diane Birch and company deliver a great amalgamation of styles into something beautifully original and rarely seen in the modern music landscape.

While Amy Winehouse gets paparazzied to death and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings steadily grind out an existence on the road (with moderate mainstream attention) Diane Birch could just surprise many as an influential middle ground player meeting somewhere in between. Not quite pop enough for the commercial success of Ms. Winehouse and not so heavily drenched in the funk to be lumped in with Dap Tone she delivers something else drawn from all of these musical landscapes and more.

"Mirror Mirror"

So no, Diane Birch isn’t the next in the “Retro Soul” movement but she might be the first in a new movement. One that is steeped in musical history, no easy classification or package is available. Stunning harmonies prevail and the music will make you smile. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. Most of all it will make you appreciate the original and the new. Nothing is completely either yet sometimes something is just enough of both to surprise and impress making you remember what it was that made you love music in the first place.

And for this I must thank my Mom without whom I wouldn’t have heard Ms. Birch, or music, to begin with.

And check out her music video for "Nothing But A Miracle" here - Note to labels, don't disable embedding!

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