June 2008

Sarah Pierce - Cowboy’s Daughter
Little Bear Records 14282
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Many artists start strong and fade as their careers near their end. Others begin well and continue to grow, producing better and stronger albums as time passes. Cowboy’s Daughter is Pierce’s sixth album and by far her most consistent. By taking her music back to its roots in the country, folk/rock, and singer/songwriter sounds that she grew up with she writes a list of songs that do justice to all facets of life – from the good to the less desirable. You’ll hear songs about love ("What Would You Do"), roads taken ("I Thought I Knew You"), roads not taken ("Wish It Away"), family (the title track) and trying to stay optimistic in a world gone crazy ("Radio"). Backed by a solid group of Austin session musicians -- and the occasional ringer (Niitty Gritty Dirt Band fiddle player Al Garth) -- Ms. Pierce, in partnership with producer/engineer/drummer Merle Bregante, weaves a finely crafted and choreographed album that bounces a listener’s emotions up and down like a yo-yo, all the while keeping attention riveted on the music.

This album may very well represent Merle Bregante’s strongest engineering work yet. While I’ve had quibbles with his previous efforts, they have almost all been addressed here. Credit should go to not only Bregante's growth as an engineer but also to new studio goodies -- Dynaudio-powered studio speakers, Alessandro headphones and 24/96 mastering. The bass, which until now has been my main disagreement with Bregante’s mixing, is strong, detailed, tight, and easy to follow. Pierce’s voice is front and center with an excellent sense of realism. All of the instruments -- from the various guitars to drums to fiddle to bass -- are more clearly reproduced and defined. The soundstage is kept between the speakers, yet there’s adequate space allotted for allow each instrument to bloom in its own unique manner. This is an album to enjoy both musically and sonically, which means it’ll have you pinned to your listening seat awaiting the next track.

Oh, and there’s a real possibility of being able to order one-off 24/96 DVD-As of the album in the future. I have one and it’s great. Now isn’t that a sweet notion to ponder?