Music » Critics' Picks

Diane Birch

9 p.m. Tuesday, August 11. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard.

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From the glistening, resonant electric piano chords that open the terrific single "Nothing But a Miracle," Diane Birch stakes out her territory. Her rhythm 'n' blues 'n' pop emanates from the honky-tonk chateau of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, or maybe the "Stoned Soul Picnic" of Laura Nyro, especially when the Southern soul backup sisters enter bearing the gospel truth and a smooth horn section. These aren't mere allusions for Birch, who gets what makes '70s soul-pop soar: the emotional connection, the uncloying hooks and, above all, the singing. Though produced by the retro-architects behind Joss Stone's debut, 2009's Bible Belt, Birch's first album for EMI, sounds sui generis, delivered by the voice of a preacher's daughter and a soul mate of Carole King.

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