(30 October 2005) Born in Tampa, Florida, Beth Hirsch was spotted playing in a Paris café by Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (aka the French retro-chic band Air). This chance encounter led to her singing on their Moon Safari album. Those expecting a continuation of the Air sound might be tempted to leapfrog over Early Days to her later Title And Idols album: this would be folly, as though Early Days (!K7 Records (Germany) !K7O91CD, 2000)is very different, it is a quite exceptionally beautiful and uncluttered album.
The instrumentation is deceptively simple, mostly just guitar (Phil Hudson) and double bass (Arnie Somogyl) with occasional additional color from piano (Paul Simms) and most notably cello (Laura Fairhurst). The short instrumental passages that are sprinkled throughout the pieces are perfectly judged and seamless. Without doubt, though, the focus of this CD is Beth's voice. It's so good to hear an album where the voice and song take priority over the arrangement and production and Paul Simms is to be commended for his restraint and in ensuring the arrangements compliment rather than overwhelm the voice.
The upshot is a wonderfully atmospheric album in a similar vein to say Colin Blunstone's One Year or Nick Drake's Pink Moon. Beth Hirsch also shares with these artists a distinctive, almost hypnotic voice which she uses to great effect, varying her delivery to fit the mood of the song--sometimes soaring, often haunting or reflective, but always thoughtful of the actual words she's singing.
The nine tracks on this album barely scrape past the half-hour mark, but what the disc may lack in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. It's almost invidious to try and select a best track as each has its own spell to weave, and no one song could be called representative of the collection as a whole.
Whilst we're certain Beth will go on to produce other fine albums, they're almost certainly going to be very different to this one. The music on Early Days sounds as if it was created in one of those happy moments of serendipity when
all the right people happen to be in the right place at the right time to produce something a little bit special. We're glad the tape was running!--Jamie Field in Hereford, England