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Heather Woods Broderick From the Ground Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

An accomplished and alluring opening gambit.

David Sheppard 2009

It’s difficult not to conclude that Portland, Oregon’s Heather Broderick has inserted the ‘Woods’ into her nom du disc simply to put some distance between herself and multi-instrumentalist wunderkind brother Peter Broderick. No inference of sibling enmity intended – indeed Peter produces and lends seamlessly supportive violin, bass and drums to proceedings here. It seems inevitable however that Heather will have to play Martha to her brother’s Rufus for a while yet. Which is a shame, as on the evidence of this fine debut hers is a formidable talent which requires no imprimatur, familial or otherwise.

A serial multi-tasker, Broderick sœur proves to be a dab hand at piano, cello, guitar and flute, and has already lent such skills to Efterklang and Oregon group Horse Feathers. She’s also the possessor of a lovely, drowsy singing voice – three parts Meg Baird folksiness to one part woozy Hope Sandoval mewl. It all coalesces sublimely on From the Ground’s standout track Cottonwood Bay – a languidly wafting folk waltz garnished with baroque strings from whose raptures a dreamily understated chorus appears almost casually, only to embed itself in the cerebrum. Like much here, it’s lyrically opaque but always hazily, autumnally evocative.  

To her credit, la Broderick rarely resorts to formula and her way with an unexpected musical twist is often bewitching. Typically, Back Room starts like an intimate piano reverie but blossoms into a widescreen vista courtesy of swooning cello and violin lines. The title track, meanwhile, is a simple acoustic guitar ballad, adorned with little except ineffable melancholy and daydreaming lyrics (“I have been wondering about you / Kicking round stones, picking up bones”).

Elsewhere, she abandons singer-songwriter tropes altogether. Brief but compelling opener Something Other Than begins as the kind of delicious, minimalist piano piece Goldmund fans might appreciate, then takes unexpected wing on an updraft of chiming dulcimers and echoing “ahhs” before summarily descending to a lonely, solo conclusion.

It’s not quite perfect – there’s perhaps a little too much reliance on bottom-of-the-well reverb effects – but minor caveats aside, From the Ground remains an accomplished and alluring opening gambit from another patently gifted Broderick.

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