Raise your hand if you know how to determine the age of a tree. You cut it in half and count the rings, right? Well, I think I’ve found a way to determine how old a person’s soul is (and it doesn’t involve any chopping so all you Dexter-wannabes can put the axes away). All you have to do is listen to the person sing.

For only being in her mid-twenties, Diane Birch has the voice of an old soul. Perhaps it was her upbringing as a conservative pastor’s daughter and the family’s frequent moves—from the U.S. to Zimbabwe to South Africa to Australia and back to the States, all by the time she was 10—that provided the piano-playing virtuoso with enough life experience to write a debut album that reveals a maturity and insightfulness far beyond her years. Or perhaps decades of reincarnation have landed this musical soul in the body of a brunette Twiggy-look-a-like. Either way, we can all be grateful that “Bible Belt” is available for our listening pleasure.

Diane Birch

If Carole King ever decides she’s ready to write a sequel to “Tapestry” (my suggestion for the title: “Tapestry 2: Back to the Loom”), Diane Birch is the artist she should co-write the album with. Several of the tracks on “Bible Belt” feel like Birch is channeling King, and if the legendary artist weren’t still alive, I would think it was her soul that found it’s way to Birch’s body. The song “Photograph” in particular would fit right in on the 70s masterpiece were it not for the Janis Joplin-esque breakdown at the end. The artist’s religious upbringing is also apparent throughout the album, and I can almost hear the congregation clapping along to standout track, “Valentino,” an ode to an imaginary friend/muse (and not the fashion icon), while “Nothing but a Miracle” brings a little Motown to the church. Birch does a great job of keeping an album that could risk sounding dated modern through her lyrics. With references to the Internet and social networking bringing her songs into the twenty-first century, Birch leaves no room for doubt that she is indeed an artist of today.

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