Review of Paintbrush
By Les Reynolds

Diane Zeigler doesn't just write songs. She breathes life into them and then puts you right in the middle.
How does she do this? To start, Diane's slightly smoky soprano voice conveys strength yet is never forceful. It's always just right.

The overall tone of her 11-song CD "Paintbrush" is vibrant and alive with excellent instrumentation, good melodies and harmonies. Lyrics are sometimes hard-hitting and brutally honest but always couched in tenderness and quiet strength.

As noted, as talented as Diane is, she doesn't do this totally alone. Some of the most notable contributions come from Gregory Douglass' and Patty Casey's support vocals, Geoff Sather and Adam Frem on slide guitar/dobro and Chuck Eller on piano. Diane herself plays a beautifully understated acoustic guitar.

The styles are varied, ranging from the Cajun/ folk on the opening "Ride that Rail" (with T-Bone Wolk on accordion) to the Celtic flavor of "Indian Paintbrush" to country/bluegrass/Appalachian/little-bit-o-blues "Prickly Pine" and "Say it isn't So."

The CD's best tunes seem to be the most rootsy ones. "Prickly Pine" utilizes a haunting melody taken to another level with perfect spacing between Geoff's slide and Chuck's piano (the latter sounding a lot like Bruce Hornsby). Another similar tune has a bit more of a bluegrass flavor. "Say It Isn't So" features Adam's dobro and the best harmonies on the CD from Patty and Geoff. (Could Patty get a solo next time?) Beau Stapleton adds some well-played mandolin chops to add richness to the song.

And speaking of instruments, Diane plays a rich and sweet acoustic guitar on "The Well," a stripped down, sparse arrangement with only Diane's instrument and her pretty voice.

Diane's lyrics need mentioning here, too. Remember the reference to "hard-hitting?" Well, "It Grew in Front of Me," is about watching a sister care for a dying husband. Sad enough, right? Wait...

"She was the first one to walk, the first one to drive
The first kid in college, the first as a bride
The first one to know the hard road of a wife
when you walk your true love to the end of his life."

The same gentleness that cradles those words is also the essence of a beautiful love song called "With My Eyes Closed:"

"...I could trace every line on your face
With my eyes closed
'cause I can see the shape of what can't be replaced
even with my eyes closed
and I never would have guessed
that Providence would be so kind
But I will always bless the day you showed up here
And struck me blind."

You don't just listen to Diane's songs -- you experience them.