Brigitte DeMeyer,
Red River Flower
(BDM, 2007)

Its copyright date notwithstanding, Red River Flower is just now getting a national promotional push from Mark Pucci Media, which handles a range of interesting rooted acts. Brigitte DeMeyer, who lives in San Francisco, doesn't fit into any one particular genre -- though roots-pop gets close to it -- but there are echoes, sometimes more than that, of country, r&b, gospel, jazz and rockabilly throughout. She's a uniquely soulful singer who, unlike many with comparable pipes, appreciates the virtue of vocal restraint. She's never showing off, in other words; she's always serving the song.

Flower consists of 13 cuts, all but one by DeMeyer with or without collaborators. The uniformly robust songwriting gets a boost from producer Brady Blade's live-in-the-studio sound -- no layering, no fussiness, just an organic approach with a clean, often acoustic ambience. Recorded in Nashville, the band boasts the likes of Mike Henderson (a music-industry veteran currently with the acclaimed, innovative bluegrass band SteelDrivers; see my review in this space on 7 June 2008) and Americana guitar hero/songwriter/recording artist Buddy Miller.

DeMeyer, Blade and the gang's minimalist approach -- no wasted notes, no extraneous instruments, no annoying gimmicks -- feels almost deceptive in its simplicity. Flower validates the cliche that less is, indeed, more. It's one of those records that one keeps going back to, each time picking up something one missed on previous spins. The first thing I noticed was the invigorating production, and the second time the songs "Without You" (the sort of pure rockabilly I find impossible to resist) and "Shepherd" (as enchanting a gospel song as I've heard in a while, with a chorus that will not soon quit playing inside your head). And then DeMeyer's singing began to get inside me, and more and more of the songs, each with its own distinctive character, started to make their presence felt. "You Were Meant for Mine" shows that a love song does not have to leave the listener with that queasy, never-welcome sensation that one has eaten too many cookies.

Let me put it this way. If Lucinda Williams's music is starting to sound as precious, self-involved and overproduced to you as it is to me, you might look up Brigitte DeMeyer, who has mastered the art of stripped-down, grassroots pop music. Fresh and fully realized, Flower may remind you why Williams sounded so good so many years ago. Not that DeMeyer is anybody but herself, you understand. I'm just sayin'.

review by
Jerome Clark

25 April 2009

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