It’s always interesting for me to get a Songwriter’s Point of View piece because they usually give me some insight into singer-songwriter and the person, and sometimes they help me discover music I wouldn’t otherwise choose on my own. Such is the case with Justin Paul Lewis’s choice — Diane Birch’s Bible Belt.
I have never heard of Diane Birch until Justin’s PoV today and I’m grateful to him for pointing me in the direction of this album. Since buying the album, I have enjoyed every minute of its soulful, piano-driven tunes and Birch’s vocals that range from powerful to playful to gentle but always emotional and beautiful. And, as I listen to Bible Belt, I can hear Birch’s influence on Justin in the slight similarities of their respective releases. However, Justin’s friendship and collaboration with Ben Sollee on Rinse, Repeat, Rewind has helped expand the creativity of the EP giving it its eclectic and experimental sound. I am also aware that comparing the two releases and artists is like comparing apples to oranges, although I’m not that sure they’re really that different (beside the obvious).
Now that I’m finished giving a convoluted comparative study on two different singer-songwriters, I’m pleased to bring you Justin Paul Lewis’s Songwriter Point of View where he discusses Diane Birch’s Bible Belt and why it’s one of his favorite albums. And, for those of you who know, know that Justin’s song “Salt” has been on permanent repeat and know how exciting this particular piece is for me. And with that said, I hope that you discover Justin like he has helped me find Bible Belt.
It was 2009 and I was not far from graduating college at the University of Louisville. Every night I would stay up late writing mini-thesis papers on racial and gender based sociological theory, and drinking coffee and beer until my eyes twitched. Often times I would stream music from the desktop computer or turn on the radio in the other room (why I did not move the radio into the office I have no idea). It would usually be dialed into Louisville’s public radio station, WFPK.
I will never forget one particular evening while listening through the walls, I heard a song that caused me to spring up out of work and sit on my bedroom floor in anticipation to hear who the hell was singing it. I was enthralled. It had such a classic sound that I thought maybe it was an old B-side from someone in the 70s. It had a depthness to it that I wanted to reach by hearing more and more and more. For the first and only time that I know of, FPK did not mention the artist’s name. I was trapped into not knowing who this person was for a few days. It literally had me going music crazy.
Exactly two days later, I heard the song again around the same time of day. I ran into the bedroom, shut the door, and sat in silence awaiting to fix this itch I had with this mystery singer. As soon as Laura Shine, the DJ, announced it was Diane Birch’s “Nothing But a Miracle,” I wrote it down on my college notebook and went to the record store to buy her album the next morning. Snagging that record that morning was honestly as necessary as the coffee I drank to get me there.
Now there are tons of great artists and albums that I could talk about here. Bill Withers, for instance, is a prime example of someone that I have admired for most of my musical career. I could write a few chapters on his songs “Use Me” and “Heartbreak Road,” but Diane’s record Bible Belt is one that I feel could use some verbal love. I feel as if I talk about the classic greats with a lot of my friends a lot of times. Bill Withers, Led Zeppelin, and Radiohead (if you want to call them classic) are always spitting out of my mouth more than most current music, because I have always been extremely picky with current music. It’s not that I don’t appreciate or listen to a lot of the “blogosphere” bands — I really do. I have just only found a few that have pushed me into musical crazyness. Diane’s record has had me saying “I could listen and try to mimic this” for years.
I think the first thing that really caught my ear with Diane was the “soul.” I discovered her in a time when I was attempting to listen to music that would make me cool and fit in with my music savvy friends. Obviously what Diane does as a singer and songwriter is very cool, but it is nothing odd-ball or “I have created my own weird music themed Tumblr blog” worthy. It is just straight honest soul, and that what I just love about this record. Each song is simple, straightforwad and just rips into one funky emotion over and over.
Lyrically I have the same feelings. The simplicity in her words makes each song so powerful to me. The opening track, “Fire Escape,” is a great example of her lyrical simplicity:”Goodbye my love, I’ll be seeing you when my lights go, when I put my head on my pillow, I’ll think of you.” It’s almost as if she took an old love/heartache letter and broke it into pieces to make a song. There is no beating around the bush. And I like that. A lot.
I could go on and on about this record and how it has helped me evolve into the performer and songwriter I have become today. The song “Fools” got me into 1976’s favorite album, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, her gorgeous album cover inspired the use of Mickie Winter’s up close black and white shot of me for the Rinse, Repeat, Rewind photoshoot, and her performances at Bonnaroo got me up way too early before Ben Sollee and I trucked back home that same day. I really appreciate these songs and what Diane does, and I hope you will check her out, often.
Stream & Buy Rinse, Repeat, Rewind EP
Buy Bible Belt
Justin Paul Lewis: Website; Facebook; Twitter
Diane Birch: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Myspace; Youtube