On her soulful new record, These Are
the Roots, Vermont folkie Diane Zeigler eloquently examines the eternal
quandary of balancing the private and the professional. Throughout the
14-song disc, Zeigler tenderly pokes and prods her fulfilling existence,
asking difficult questions about how happiness happens and finding universal
truths about the regenerative powers of love and family. Whether she’s
waxing anthemic on “This Too Shall Pass,” documenting tragic love in “The
Legend of Enoch Arden” or wondering at the dignity of marriage in “Holy
Ground,” Zeigler almost never fails to find striking words and honest music
with which to express herself.
The crisp way that Zeigler’s girlish, plaintive voice energizes her unvarnished poetry recalls Shawn Colvin’s approach, but because Zeigler lacks Colvin’s pop hooks and esoteric excesses, she comes across as genuine and focused. In the bouncy “What You’ve Always Known,” which is powered by a skittish acoustic-guitar figure and a winding organ line, Zeigler humbly promises that faith can be enough: “So find a place where the light splits the dark,” she sings, “and hold it safe in the hollow of your heart.” Yet in “I Know My Baby’s Cry,” Zeigler admits that part of parenthood’s compromise is setting aside wanderlust to pursue a different kind of journey. The singer finds peace with the two halves of her soul in songs such as “In Defense of Eve,” which contains this telling lyric: “Looking out beyond the farthest shore/You were just a wife who wanted more.” The contentment that Zeigler celebrates throughout These Are the Roots is contagious because she, as Eve did, wants more—the tension of balancing her two lives makes the time she devotes to either of them precious, and the moments when her paths intersect miraculous.
Filled with melodic, emotional songs,
These Are the Roots is one of the most satisfying records of the year—and
considering the twisty path that led to its release, that’s quite an accomplishment.
After releasing her acclaimed debut disc, 1995’s Sting of the Honeybee,
Zeigler quit music to start a family. When she resumed her music career
last year, the singer had lost her momentum and her deal with Rounder Records,
forcing her to start from scratch as an indie artist. The involving melodies,
delicate singing and articulate wordplay of These Are the Roots prove that
Zeigler hasn’t been daunted by her stop-and-start career; quite to the
contrary, her winding road forced the singer to dig deeper for strength,
inspiration and material.