Sarah Pierce –Cowboy’s Daughter and Bring It On, Little Bear Records
Over the last couple of years, Austin’s Sarah Pierce turned her sixth and seventh studio releases loose on the world. Individually, they are disparate and at times mesmerizing in tremendously unique fashion. Taken together, as with the repeated listens which led to this review, Cowboy’s Daughter and Bring It On paint a picture of an artist possessed of a breadth of talent which bears watching and is more than worth your hard-earned dollars’ listen.
With the first record Sarah mines hidden veins of gold whose presence is felt mostly in the moments of quiet elation which spring from a hardscrabble work ethic. That impact is perhaps most hauntingly felt in the record’s next-to-last track, “Tumbleweed Dreams.” It’s a sparkling, quiet, but bubbling stream of consciousness walk through all the ways the vastness and mystic wonder of West Texas get down in the bones and pervade the life journeys of generations. Fantastic stuff, and a quality of writing Elmer Kelton would recognize and approve.
Bring It On, on the other hand, cuts loose a more uptempo and sparkling sound. The underlying salt-of-the-earth principles of Cowboy’s Daughter aren’t lost in the shuffle, but this record’s more about the veneer than it is the wood beneath. It’s often stunningly pretty, a slice of ear candy to set toes a-tappin’ and hearts a-flutterin’. And at times it’s beautifully genuine, even when lost in young love’s idealism:
A late winter’s night the sleet’s coming down
Jimmy pulls the Chevy over just out of town
He said I’ve saved twenty dollars, next month you’re eighteen
I hope you’ll accept this poor boy’s ring
In other spots, notably the title track, Sarah tends to prove that her considerable vocal abilities are better suited to quieter and more nuanced fair. Bombast, while she gives it one hell of a go, just ain’t quite her forte. But when she does step back and let the song take over, as with the title cut from Cowboy’s Daughter, Pierce is jaw-droppingly phenomenal. The vocals here simply possess the shimmering accompaniment, and the lyrics are of a sort you just don’t get much from the women these days. Most of Pierce’s peers seem to land somewhere between Miranda Lambert channeling Alanis Morrissette and the fluffy, overwrought and overthought “artistry” that tends to make run-of-the-mill female singers think they’re singer-songwriters. But this track, well, you figure out for your own self where it lies:
I was taught to travel light
Keep my baggage deep inside
Hold my head way up high
And never give up the fight
I’m a cowboy’s daughter
A breed you won’t see much longer
My daddy lived a lonely cowboy’s life
He was a hero in his little girl’s eyes
I’m a cowboy’s daughter
The rest of the track expands on and deepens the bedrock principles those lyrics evoke, and makes it clear this isn’t your average chick singer. Pierce is formidable, beginning with levels that precede her musical forays. And that substance shines through in everything she does.
It doesn’t hurt a bit, on either record, that Sarah’s surrounded herself with incomparable talent. Her band’s resume reads like a who’s who, and while many artists can say that, it’s a much smaller number who have someone like Merel Bregante believing in them. His influence and experience are at times evident on both records, but to Sarah’s credit, her own skills and contributions are never overshadowed. Perhaps that says more about her as a person than anything else, but it says a hell of a lot about her as an artist. And it’s just one of many reasons both records here are worth your time. Apparently not every outlaw has to walk softly and carry a big fuckin’ amp. And it just could be that in this current Texas pantheon of Kevin Fowler throwaways and pseudo-Red Dirt glitz, some substance remains. Pierce deserves kudos for her earthy reality, her heartfelt lyrics, and her commitment to delivering both through vocals which are capable of a mesmerizing authority.
Go to www.sarahpierce.com to check her out for yourself.
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Dave Pilot lives in north Texas with his first good wife (don’t ask about the other one), seven horses, and five dogs. When his wife’s not looking, he tries to figure out ways to feed the 987 or so cats to the coyotes out behind the fenceline. When he’s not trying to raise his kids to turn out better than he did, he’s hitting historical sites on his way to honky-tonks from Denton to Port Aransas.
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