Diane Birch

Bible Belt

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With its white suburban soul and pleasant, midtempo pop, Diane Birch’s debut sounds like a relic from the ‘70s singer/songwriter era. Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King are obvious touchstones here, and the twentysomething Birch (who wasn’t born until the mid-‘80s) approximates their vintage flair by aligning herself with the likes of R&B singer Betty Wright and producer Steve Greenberg, both of whom helped launch Joss Stone’s career several years prior. While Stone’s debut focused on the sheer power of her vocals, however, Bible Belt functions instead as a showcase for Birch’s songwriting. She pens every song here -- a marked difference from Stone, who performed cover songs on her own debut -- and sings them with understated grace, adding a touch of grit to the sustained high notes of “Fire Escape” and some coffeehouse sass to the sprightly “Valentino.” Few rookie songwriters play to their strengths this well, and that’s the charm of this record, which doesn’t blow your socks off as much as whet your appetite to fill your glass, recline your chair, and enjoy the record from start to finish.

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