Diane Zeigler,
(self-produced, 2002)

I have no idea what I was doing the first time I listened to Diane Zeigler's Paintbrush. From the opening notes of "Ride That Rail," I was lost in fascination with the lovely view offered by her sweet, calm voice and the friendly exchanges of the instruments. A bright spring day of an album, Paintbrush presents odes to loves of all sorts, offered on light, open musical themes.

Zeigler's music has an optimism that wisely steers her work away from the maudlin, even when dealing with painful subjects. "Ride That Rail" is a farewell to a dear one caught in addiction, and in other hands would become a condemnation. Here it is a prayer for the future, a statement of faith in the one currently struggling. "Prickly Pine" may be a bluesy, lowkey mother's lament to her seduced daughter, but the last verse suggests that the wayward girl may be getting some joy out of her unapproved union.

It's always nice to hear a songwriter acknowledge that life is more than romantic relationships. The linked songs "Kathleen" and "It Grew in Front of Me" honor the bonds of family and the sometimes strained relationships of siblings. "It Grew in Front of Me," a younger sister's recounting of an older sister's blossoming romance, is one of the most powerful songs on the album. The inclusion of a high child's voice singing the last chorus disrupts the subtle poetry of the story, and may be the one real flaw in the album.

The romantic songs that are on the album manage to share a feeling of real caring rather than the obsessive desperation evident in so many "love" songs. "With My Eyes Closed" captures a heart rejoicing in love without fear of loss. "Indian Paintbrush" holds the sweet excitement of future romance not yet discovered. One of the most poetic songs on the album, "Say It Ain't So," blends a traditional romance tale with a love for hometown, and leaves both love stories unresolved and leaning towards tragic.

Though Paintbrush certainly has its own sound, great variety of influences play throughout the album. "Ride That Rail" has a slight taste of zydeco, followed soon by the bluegrass feel of "Indian Paintbrush." Whether it's the bright romance of "With My Eyes Closed" or the careful sorrow of "It Grew in Front of Me," Zeigler works her musical influences into a gentle acoustic style that softens grief and turns joy into something piercing.

Paintbrush dissolves on the ear and bubbles through the brain, leaving the heart relaxed and calm. It's one of those albums that can change the mood of an entire day before it's halfway done, and still sound fresh on its third play.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 10 May 2003

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