Some say I am cynical and hard to please when it comes to music, so when Brave Bird left me stunned it means a lot. The latest release from New Mexico’s Martha Reich showcases her amazing voice. Somehow amid the intricate layering of banjo, violin, strings and piano Reich’s vocals remain the focal point of each song. I had read comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but those do not do her justice. She is soft one minute and soaring the next, pulling you into the emotion of each moment.
The plaintive call of her voice on “Fade Away” kept me coming back for multiple listens. “So Brave,” one of the album’s standout tracks, starts out with sparse instrumentation and gradually builds to a sonic fullness which leaves the listener wanting more. Amongst all the excellent offerings the most spectacular is “I’d Rather Be Surprised.” Pulsing, yet sparse instrumentation coupled with hypnotic verses of a quiet yearning spin into the call for something new and the hope that it promises. Michael Kott on viola adds depth to this one. “The River” is presented both fully realized with vocals and then again as an instrumental. Both tracks stand on their own merit. Both are beautifully rendered, but the instrumental breaks my heart every time I listen to it.
Reich’s ability to craft and sing such emotive songs is as impressive as her ability to play multiple instruments so adeptly. I have always been in awe of artists who command all aspects of their craft and Reich’s talent is noteworthy. The album closes with a stunning reimagining of the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. J.Q. Whitcomb’s trumpet fills set the tone as the song begins before Reich’s voice softly propels the tune forward to a gentle ending. Big shoes to fill. I was beyond thrilled with how she handled a legendary song that people hold dear to their hearts. Brave Bird is a fantastic release that should further endear Reich to her existing fanbase while effortlessly winning over new listeners. I can only imagine how great these songs sound live and I look forward to the next chance to experience them in person. You can listen, and find tour dates, here. http://www.marthareich.com/