May 2001

Sarah Pierce - Birdman
Little Bear Records 14222
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Every once in a while, it’s fun to be one of the people building the bandwagon that everyone else will eventually be jumping onto. Sarah Pierce’s Birdman offers one of those opportunities and should do very nicely as the floorboard for said bandwagon. This album, a mixture of pop/country/rock/folk tunes, adds up to a very musical disc, one that should go a long way toward garnering Sarah Pierce the appreciation of a much wider audience.

Within Ms. Pierce’s singing and songwriting, you'll hear echoes of many diverse musicians. Influences from the likes of Emmylou Harris (listen to songs such as "My Street" and "Marjorie"), Joni Mitchell (no particular song, just the overall writing style), Kate Bush ("Turn Around" and "I Don’t Know Why"), Nancy Griffith ("Anything Goes" and "Wind") and others, are pervasive, but they never overpower Pierce’s own voice. Her songs will grab and then keep your attention, because they need no outside help. She claims that her style owes more to pop/rock than country/folk, and while that may be true, you can easily hear what being raised in Texas and Colorado has done for her songwriting.

There are no real rockers on Birdman (the closest is "Coffee Shop," which boogies right along). Song tempos range from ballad to moderately upbeat. Ms. Pierce is already a strong songwriter, a talent that should only grow with both time and better recognition. She owns a beautiful voice, one that allows you to feel as well as hear what she’s singing. And it’s perfectly suited to her musical style.

The sound here is typical of most studio efforts today. This is a digital recording; ergo, there is very little ambience captured (none, really). Soundstage width is OK, but there is almost no depth. Bass is deep, but somewhat ill-defined, and the highs sound a tad rolled off. You can, however, follow each instrument with relative ease within the soundfield. And Pierce’s voice comes through the mix so you can hear every inflection in her singing. So while this is no audiophile effort, its shortcomings won’t get in the way of your enjoying the music. And the music is so strong it overcomes any problems in the recording quality.

I'll go out on a limb and declare that I think Sarah Pierce is a rocket about to take off, and Birdman is the launching pad. Pick up a copy and grab a good seat on the bandwagon. If you choose not to, well, start getting your legs into shape, because you’re going to be doing a bit of jumping very soon. Now, where did I put that hammer?