July 15, 2009

New Artist - Diane Birch

New singer/songwriters are always fantastic to come across, and this holds true for Diane Birch, who has just released her first album,
Bible Belt. This thirteen track album is one of the most refreshing albums that I've heard thus far this year, and it's quickly tracking to be one of my favorites for 2009.

Neo-Soul seems to be gaining a bit of popularity, with acts such as
Grace Potter, Myra Flynn and James Hunter releasing some fantastic material. Birch is well poised to really make a splash with her first album. The first word that really comes to mind is rich, upon listening to Bible Belt - there's a good variety of sound that really makes me think of acts such as Rilo Kiley (especially with the track Valentino), Bonnie Raitt and Fleetwood Mac, among others. While it is a little odd to call an album refreshing, yet compare it to a number of established sounds, Birch forges ahead with a unique blend of influences and energy that marks the best albums.

There's energy aplenty here, which I really like, but the album does sink to a couple of more reflective songs that give a good balance throughout the album. Birch takes over the piano throughout the album, with a very good backing group, ranging from brass, violins to the typical guitar, bass and drums. This is coupled together with some solid lyrics that really mesh together to give the album a fun tone that's not overly heavy. Tracks such as
Fire Escape, Fools, Nothing But A Miracle, Rewind, and a couple others are fairly mellow, laid back and easy going, while a couple others, such as Valentino and Don't Wait Up kick the energy a bit and pick up the pace for a couple of fun minutes.

Aspects of Diane's life are throughout the album. The daughter of a pastor within a fairly strict religious community, according to her biography is evident through songs such as
Nothing But a Miracle and Forgiveness, but there's elements that really move against this a bit, with influences from the classics of pop-rock as well. There's further evidence of youthful rebellion in the song Don't Wait Up, which helps to make this album more than a one off sound and theme. This is a fun, interesting and complicated album.

Birch is a singer/songwriter of the Internet generation, getting her music on Myspace and garnering attention at smaller gigs, but she's far beyond the artists who merely post because they like hearing themselves - there is real and genuine talent here, and as her bio describes, Bible Belt is a tour-de-force album. Amen to that.

Nothing But A Miracle - Diane Birch
Photograph - Diane Birch