Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Love Makes the Price Good Enough to Wanna Pay

Bible Belt - Diane Birch

Diane Birch has the kind of voice that can melt your heart and warm your soul. There have been many retro artists of late but Birch is one of the few that mange to be retro but still sound current at the same time (the only other being Amy Winehouse, but who knows if she will ever be cognizant enough again to make another album). Sounding like Carole King with more edge at times, Birch should still find room on the playlist of present day adult contemporary radio station. And if Birch isn’t on your local station you should call for the resignation of the programmer.

The name Diane Birch may make some head scratching happen, but her debut album Bible Belt assembles an impressive list of session players, Lenny Kravitz’s recording and touring drummer Cindy Blackman, George Porter from The Meters on bass, Adam Blackstone from The Roots, Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith Group, and some backing vocals from Eugene Pitt of the doo wop group The Jive Five. With all that assembly of talent, the real secret weapon is legendary soul singer Betty Wright who co-produced Bible Belt, provided backing vocals and served as Birch’s vocal coach.

Despite the religious title, Bible Belt is no Christian record instead seems to be inspired by her traveling preacher, and spending most of her youth going from place to place like South Africa and Australia certainly helped the creative process in Birch. The closest she gets to being non-secular is near the end of the album including Choo Choo which features hints of organs that could be from a church service (or maybe just a lost The Doors groove) while singing about how the devil has targeted her guy to just get to her. Then there is the bluesy Forgiveness that starts off with the line, “Hallelujah I got water, I got air.” Actually the song could work as a hymnal just as well and a pop song. Also Photograph ends in a crescendo of a choir to great effect after starting off as a lullaby.

With a voice like hers, naturally the slow songs are where she truly soars like on Fire Escape, the opener to the album. The other showcase to her voice bookends the album with the closer Magic View. But shows her many other skills throughout the album, Valentino is a bouncy New Orleans inspired track. If you listen closely you may her influences from the original Iko Iko. But for a full New Orleans march go to Rise Up.

The lead single Nothing but a Miracle is a dreamy jazzy song that laments the demise of a relationship that should be in heavy rotation of any broken hearted girl playlist, way ahead of any cheesy angry pop tart’s break up song. The piano into to Rewind sounds like the greatest chord progression Billy Joel never got around to writing himself while the chorus starts to sound like the melody of Alone by Heart before going somewhere different when the horns come in.

Song to Download – Fire Escape

Bible Belt gets a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my Terror Alert Scale.

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