Eureka songstress/guitarist Michelle Rivers mines the country vein with expertise in 12 songs on her debut album. Originally from Tennessee, she grew up around her father’s (David Piland) home studio, which encouraged her interest in performing and songwriting at a young age. She has maintained her southern-roots authenticity, and recording without drums adds to the purity.
She’s joined by a-list musicians who tour with national acts – Jimmy Mattingly, violin and mandolin, and Rob Ickes, Dobro. Piland plays guitars, banjo, bass, and mandolin, and adds vocals. Bruce Bouton, Bobby Terry, Jim Hyatt, Rodney Ingle, and husband Sean Tribble also contribute their musicianship.
The first piece, “Big Sky,” is a nice two-step; Rivers has that slight catch in her voice that is not artificial, unlike so many pretentious country singers. In “Free,” co-written with her father and sister, Laura, the Dobro sets up the feel, and a bluesy beat from banjo and fiddle bounces along as Rivers sings in a breezy mood.
“Sean’s Song,” written for her husband, is sweet and mellow. Rivers zips easily into her upper register on this one. “On My Side” is a knee-slappin’ bluegrasser with fiddle and banjo pushing it. A couple argues over bills here; it’s got a cool hook and tight harmony.
A nursery-rhyme feel to the slowly rockin’ “Parking Garage” hearkens to a carefree youth. “We began our search for our identity, got lost in rebellion ’cause we wanted to be free,” Rivers croons.
Rivers played at Montana’s Red Ants Pants Music Festival in July and landed a scholarship to the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival, which took place recently in Bigfork. These days she plays in a trio with her husband and father, and continues to perform as a soloist.
– Mariss McTucker