Monday, January 29
Watch your backs, PHOENIX and ZAPPA families, and make way for the silkily alliterative, friend-of-the-Earth-monikered SIERRA SWAN -- a young, up-and-coming California singer/songwriter who has already collaborated with a couple of the music biz's most respected song stylists. (Oh, and, just to solidify her family's standing in the wacky, terrestrial/ethereal name-game: Ms. Swan's sister is also a singer... and is named "Planet.")
Sierra Swan began her music career at the age of 16 -- writing songs and playing coffee houses in the San Fernando Valley. Before long, Atlantic Records came a'callin' with a contract, and the beginnings of a bright, promising career seemed all but assured.
Alas, in that oldest and most cliched of cautionary tales, artist and record label did not see eye-to-eye on the artistic-vision thing, and Atlantic dumped her like detritus. (No doubt TORI AMOS -- who lived the same exact tale with the same exact record label some ten years before -- can sympathize.)
Then, as so often seems to happen, a professional setback was enjoined and eclipsed by a personal one -- with Ms. Swan's mother taking seriously ill and passing away in February of 2003. It was at this emotional low ebb that Swan met songwriter, producer, and just general "uber-guru" LINDA PERRY. Before long, the two were writing together -- a partnership that would eventually yield 2005's LADYLAND, Sierra Swan's first album.
From the beginning, this collaboration had a kismet quality to it -- not just because the two proved to be so compatible as composers, but because their voices have a definite, kissing-cousin quality to them. Swan's may not be quite as over-the-top rough-and-tumble as Perry's was in the latter's 4 NON BLONDES days, but there's a seductive scratchiness to her purr that adds a welcome heft. Think: FIONA APPLE. Or -- on some of the poppier numbers -- one of Perry's previous proteges: PINK. (Also, the sometimes-playful, sometimes-darkly-intense piano figures that animate many of the tracks tend to evoke Ms. "UNDER the Pink" -- Tori Amos.)
As yet, Swan isn't the most accomplished lyricist you're likely to hear, but what she lacks in literary polish she more than makes up for in tell-it-like-it-is emotional punch and irony-couching-anger honesty. Obviously, having Linda Perry at her side is a pretty effective creative crutch. And, just for a little added assistance, AIMEE MANN co-writes and lends vocal support to the suffers-no-fools kiss-off, "Get Down to It."
Turns out, then, that Sierra Swan has a lot more going for her than that silkily alliterative name of hers. But even so: River, Rain, Summer, Liberty, and Leaf... watch your backs. Dweezil, Moon Unit, Diva, and Ahmet... eat your hearts out.
[SIERRA SWAN will be playing THE HOTEL CAFE in Hollywood at 10:30 PM on January 31.]
SIERRA SWAN on MySPACE.
[MP3] [VID] "Don't Say"
[MP3] "Just Tell Me"
BONUS TRACK >>>
[MP3] "It's a Merry Time"