Artist  Diane Zeigler
Album  These Are The Roots
Label  Independent
Reviewer  Caroline Dale-Risk
Rating  ***½
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Although this album was released last year, promotion was delayed by several months owing to Zeigler developing repetitive motion injury at the base of her thumb. Fortunately following surgery she has recovered from this injury, which rendered her unable to play guitar, but it is not the first time she has taken a break from her career as a singer-songwriter. Indeed, the injury may well have been caused by a resumption of guitar playing after a three-year break to raise two children. No sooner had her debut album Sting of the Honeybee been released on the Rounder label, she discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. To the dismay of Rounder, Zeigler decided that motherhood came first. That was in 1995. Now, having picked up the musical reins once more, she has taken more control into her own hands, both co-producing and self-financing These Are The Roots. Zeigler has a lovely voice, with a slightly haunting quality to it, not unlike Shawn Colvin. Like Colvin, she uses imagery in her lyrics but it is less dark, and like her music, generally, simpler. By-and-large this is acoustic folk music consisting of Zeigler and her guitar, though complemented with sympathetic playing by, amongst others, husband Geoff Sather on bass, Josh Colow on electic guitars, and T-Bone Wolk on organ and accordion. Drawing on her life and relationships, both ups and downs, for inspiration, thoughts on motherhood are offered in I Know My Baby's Cry, while marriage is the subject of Holy Ground. While Zeigler sounds at peace with herself - she is a long way from the angst-ridden confessional school of song-writing - she eschews easy sentimentality. There are bad times as well as good, and there are some wise words on dealing with the former in This Too Shall Pass and Forgiveness. Another theme is knowing where you belong, explored in the title track. This moves along nicely, with an infectious upbeat chorus: 'These are the roots that keep my feet on the ground/These are the ones that I need to slow me down/This is the place that I call the holy land/It's calling me back with the words and the ways I understand'. Zeigler is an intelligent, sensitive writer. One of the most interesting songs is In Defence of Eve. Not a feminist rant, but a subtle suggestion that Eve was 'just a wife who wanted more'. Another unusual song is The Legend of Enoch Arden, a clever reworking of a poem by Tennyson. Perhaps the most moving song, however, is You Were Welcome Here. Written from the point of view of a mother who gave up a child for adoption, it is filled with the pain of knowing that the now fully grown child will believe he was unwanted. These are well-crafted songs, set to gentle, melodic music and well served by clear sound quality and sensitive, balanced production. Thoughtful and personal without being navel gazing, this is a fine album.