CD Review of Bible Belt by Diane Birch
Diane Birch: Bible Belt
Recommended if you like
Carole King, Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell
Label
S-Curve
Diane Birch: Bible Belt

Reviewed by Mike Farley

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I
t’s pretty easy to say that singer/songwriter Diane Birch has come out of nowhere, because, frankly, she has. But before her debut album, Bible Belt, was released on the S-Curve label, Birch had been laying groundwork – taking piano lessons and vocal lessons and signing a publishing deal in the UK; living in London and South Africa and Portland and Los Angeles and New York; and even going through a Goth phase that helped shape her as a unique artist. The result is a seasoned songwriter (though still in her mid 20s) who considers herself an "old soul," which means that Birch is a throwback to the likes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell and also maintains a current pop/soul/jazz sensibility, a la Norah Jones. But the best part isn’t that Birch is a throwback, it’s that these songs are absolutely stunning, as is her velvety voice. Too many female artists have gone the wispy route the last few years, but Birch has too much substance in her vocal cords for that – and she’s not flashy, but extremely effective.

The set kicks off with "Fire Escape," which isn’t quite the up-tempo number you’d expect on a debut like this, but it’s not a bad track. From there, Birch launches into "Valentino," a swinging number with melodies that soar into the clouds, followed by two of the album’s best tracks, both ‘70s-inspired dead ringers for Carole King, "Fools" and "Nothing but a Miracle." "Rise Up" has a Sunday church feel, and while Birch is not technically the gospel or Christian artist you might infer from the album title, she is no doubt influenced by her dad, a conservative pastor, as well as the music that comes out of churches. Other strong tracks are the upbeat "Don’t Wait Up" and the gospel-infused ballad "Forgiveness."

Clearly, Diane Birch’s globetrotting and musical influences have contributed to the proverbial melting pot that holds her songwriting prowess – a prowess that delivers music that never sounds forced, and that is instantly easy on the ears. In fact, you may feel like you’ve been transported back in time to 1972, when the piano pop of artists like King and Elton John and Karen Carpenter were making their mark. Lofty comparisons? Maybe, but listen for yourself and you’ll likely agree they aren’t far-fetched at all.

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