Of a different feather

The two musical artists featured today eschew the regular route to commercial success and stardom, sticking to their guns in terms of musical vision and expression, and it has worked! While Diane Birch is a newcomer, Jamie Cullum is a dab hand, someone who has taken musical interpretation and jazz-tinged influences to new heights over the years.

Diane Birch — Bible Belt (EMI). This came as a pleasant surprise. Think singer-songwriter in the Carole King, Laura Nyro mode, add a dash of Norah Jones’ jazz-and-country tinged arrangements, then top off with gospel, blues, and/or old school soul, and you’ll have the very individual voice and music of Diane Birch. She comes to us via Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia, moved to the US, and is only in her mid-twenties. A self-professed “old soul,” the first time I noticed this artist was when she guested on David Letterman, and I was blown away! Fire Escape, Valentino, Fools and Nothing But A Miracle are my immediate favorites; and while the latter half of the CD pales in comparison, there’s enough great music and vocal styling to make this CD a true winner!

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Jamie Cullum — The Pursuit (MCA Music). Jazz-Pop artist, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter — there seems to be no limit to how Cullum positions himself in the market — the common denominator being the “hot” music he produces. Known also for doing covers from way out left field (on past albums, he’d do songs from Joy Division, White Stripes, Pussycat Dolls and Massive Attack), the CD is no exception, as while the first track is vintage Cole Porter, he also takes on Sondheim and Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music. It’s the creativity, the risk-taking (and usually succeeding) that makes Jamie such a unique musical proposition. Musicians he admires the most are Miles Davis and Tom Waits. That should give us an inkling of how different Jamie dares to be.


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