The 27-year-old daughter of a 7th Day Adventist Preacher, Diane Birch spent her early years in Zimbabwe and Australia with little contact to popular culture until she returned to America as an early teen. Until that point, her life had revolved solely around the Church and Christian culture, bar the rare occasion she would hear the radio or see a television programme. Thus, when finally introduced to recorded mediums, Birch initially embraced all that is Gothic — from Sisters of Mercy to Joy Division, Christian Death. But soon enough she found external influences providing further musical education, with those surrounding her introducing her to anything from jazz to the Beatles.
Songs of love, life and parental disappointment.
Somewhere along the way there must have been an introduction to the female singer/songwriter, with Birch’s debut effort Bible Belt carrying on the tradition in fine form. While her primarily folk-soul collection boasts echoes a whole list of female stars: The Indigo Girls, The Dixie Chicks, Aretha Franklin, Joss Stone, KT Tunstall, Adele, Laura Nyro, Ricki Lee Jones, Janis Joplin and Billie Holiday to name but a few, there is also something distinct about Birch. Unlike many a copycat, Birch appears to be the genuine article. Her determined, steely vocal occasionally cracks into the delicate but she rarely moves from the spine tingling.
At her most comfortable in the up-tempo, Birch seems determined to leave her innocent Christian background behind her. Songs of love, life and parental disappointment are easily relateable but uniquely performed, with the relentless pace rarely being dropped. “Valentino” offers the album’s finest moment as an instantly irrepressible sing along. Equally though, the simple piano opening of “Rewind” opens up a vulnerability otherwise kept well hidden. The unapologetic “Don’t Wait Up”, a letter to her Preacher father is pop-jazz at it’s finest.
Bible Belt is a clear demonstration of independence. Birch at 27 is aware of who she is and where she has come from, her life experiences may in some ways be extraordinary but is able to make the mundane and normal equally insatiable.