There is something vaguely familiar about Jamie Byrd's voice on Garden of Days but to tell the truth, at this point I could care less. Her pure, simple delivery and almost earthy spirituality reaches through the speakers and wraps around me like a warm blanket on a cold wintry night and all thoughts of comparison vanish. It is not just about the voice, as entrancing as it is. It is about the music, top to bottom. Albums like this do not just happen. They have to happen.
Byrd brings talent in abundance to the project, wearing the hats of singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer and probably go-fer to boot. The result is a collection of some of the most beautiful and haunting songs in recent years. If all she could do is sing, she would be worthy of attention, having that natural ability to take a song way over the top with her sometimes immaculate phrasing. If all she could do is write, she would have artists knocking on her door at every turn. And after hearing this, her production talents are obvious.
To get an idea, think Joan Baez during her Diamonds and Rust phase, only better. Think Sandy Denny during her Fotheringay days, only American. Think Judy Collins at the time of Wildflowers, only more inclusive of others. Think the softer side of Adrienne Young and Beth Amsel and even Jennifer Greer, all talents who deserve much more attention than they are getting. They have all hit peaks on their records which leave many speechless. Garden of Days is an album of such peaks. It is downright stunning at times and very very good throughout.
The stunning would include the one song toward which Byrd added only arrangement and voice, Scott Brown's I Found You, a light country-tinged ballad turned soft as heated butter thanks to Lorin Rowan's fitting harmony. Steve Fisher's ear-catching acoustic guitar leads into Gonna Build Me a Barn on which Byrd's voice rides high. In a Mirror reeks of early Joni Mitchell when melody and aura ruled her music. Taking songwriting liberties, Byrd steps out on Rain, a magnificent cloudy day dream turned magic. Ditto on Tumbleweed. Steve Fisher adds his Don Williams-textured voice to String of Pearls which works incredibly well with Byrd's clear, pure tones.
Byrd brought a plethora of musicians into the studio to produce this gem and they all deserve a solid pat on the back, especially Asher Fulero who sprinkles angel dust (not the drug) with his creative piano and Colm O'Riain who did the same with his violin. The real praise has to go to Jamie Byrd her own self, though, for having the sense to know her strengths and weakness as well as those of the musicians involved. This has to have turned out better than she'd hoped.
For reviewers, albums like Garden of Days present a real problem. By the time you've heard them enough to be able to write about them, you are already fast in love with them. It's just plain hard to be objective. No need to take my word, though. The album is available for sampling on CD Baby. A simple caveat: Byrd's songs are such that two minutes do not do them justice. They were written to be heard from beginning to end and they are good enough to deserve that. When you hear them, you'll understand.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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