Songwriter Diane Zeigler made a splash in the folk world five years ago with her much acclaimed CD, "Sting Of The Honeybee." The accolades from that disk seemed to put her on the fast track to success in the folk world of New England. But when she and husband/bassist Geoff Sather found out they were pregnant, she put her guitar down and picked up the baby bottle and changed diapers instead of guitar strings.
For five years she has been sorely absent while tending to her new flock. But in 1999, she added songwriting awards to her already impressive folk pedigree. Having won props from the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival of Colorado, their total is now six awards of one kind or another. I never knew folkies could be so competitive.
Their new album is entitled "These are the Roots" and is put out independently (in the spirit of this past holiday - God Bless America) Where one once she was controlled by Rounder Records group, of Boston powerhouse for folk, bluegrass and other roots-oriented music, this album was made possible in part with support from the Heyman Music Foundation and the Vermont Arts Council. I can honestly say your tax dollars were not wasted on this album, people.
Zeigler has found the Internet is a valuable tool for helping her promote and distribute her music herself. By using the web, she doesn't have to fall under the record company's demands for a hectic and demanding touring scheduling. (Although with two youngsters in the house touring with we seem like a piece of cake.) With the web, she can balance a music career and motherhood, maintaining control for family life and career, to the benefit of both.
An undeniably sweet and pretty voice is what really sets this disc apart from others I have reviewed in the past months. While the tone is soft and never overbearing, Zeigler's voice has an indefinable quality that simply makes it special. Alison Krauss comes to mind at first but mostly for the ease of delivery. For the quality of the voice, a case could be made for Lisa Loeb comparison but less cutesy and less feigned.
Another difference is the music within. While undeniably folk, it's not so sickeningly pious or traditional that it makes one lose their lunch. The music is a more contemporary take on the genre - songs that could be twisted and turned to work for top ten country artist as well as popular singers.
While "The Winter Sun" is slower and pretty, the proceeding title track moves along at a nice mid-tempo and rootsy base as does "By Your Name."
"I Know My Baby's Cry" is the only overtly maternal song on the album, and while Zeigler's proud of her child peering abilities, she doesn't sicken one with a forced and militant pro-mama stand. However, "In Defense Of Eve" will keep her in good standing with the feminist movement. "Holy Ground," her ode to her marriage day, doesn't sicken one with too much sentimentality either. "In The Name Of Love" will not be confused with U2's "Pride".
In that quiet way in which similar vocalizes, I found the background musician sometimes got left out of the mix a bit. Electric guitar adding touches to the basic formula of acoustic guitar, bass and drums gets a little too quiet for my taste, but it does add to the soft texture of the album as a whole. Bruce Stockwell helps out a bunch on banjo with "The Legend Of Enoch Arden," a clever story within a story about Zeigler's childhood fascination with a poem by Tennyson.
The album does maintain a constancy of sonic quality throughout that gets a little redundant after a bit, but that is less a concern due to the quality of the voice and songwriting. Those who know me know a usually will not grab a folk, AAA core adult contemporary listening album as my first choice off the old CD rack so believe me when I say Zeigler has the right stuff. Quiet and pretty but not to overly sanctimonious. It's a nice combination for less-than-fans of folk music. For those who live and die by it, this should be a winner.
For more information, logon and visit www.dianezeigler.com. Zeigler will perform at select cities around the country, but she makes hometown appearance at City Hall in September.
In August, she appears on the
steps, and later that same day, she will perform at a little-known hole
in the wall club called The Kennedy Center. As we say in Vermont,
"nawt too bahd."