Have you heard of Kirby Heard? Kirby Heard is prepping for the release of a new album. It’s titled Ripples in the Wake and has a drop date of October 14th. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to Heard’s official website, Kirby Heard is an American singer-songwriter, and musician. Raised in North Carolina, her musical journey “started with piano, then flute and guitar and then bloomed when a stint as a summer counselor expanded her thirst for playing and singing folk music.” Her initial experience in the Rocky Mountains inspired her “to write poetry, some of which were turned into songs by other counselors.”
In 2012 Heard “co-founded Bob & Kirby’s Double H Bluegrass. The band recorded two of Kirby’s original songs on their 2016 release, Pieces of a Dream, including [her] tribute to Veterans everywhere, ‘Not Forgotten’.” Her rockin’ resume also includes her first solo release, Mama’s Biscuits, which dropped in 2019.
Heard’s signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres including Americana, folk, and a touch of bluegrass. She “grew up surrounded by music …[with] the home hi-fi spinning 60s folk classics, humorists & jazz, and singing with the church choir.”
Ripples in the Wake
Ripple in the Wake is a 14-track album of all original material. Here Heard leads the way on guitar and vocals. She is occasionally backed by other artists including producer Jon Shain (guitars, mandolin, and harmony vocals), Joseph Decosimo (fiddle), Julie Elkins (banjo and harmony vocals), Kaitlin Grady (cello), Alice Hasen (fiddle), Bob Hight (mandolin), Bill Newton (harmonica), FJ Ventre (electric bass, upright bass, piano, and percussion), and Laurelyn Dossett and Barry Gray (harmony vocals). The material here is much like her earlier material in that they are all pieces of her past. As confirmed in a recent email, drawn from “down-home grass-roots stories” that quietly and calming call out to be heard.
Track by Track
The album opens strongly with “Angel Wings.” It’s the premiere single, and deservedly so. It immediately draws in the listener via simple commonalities. It’s a lovely lament for a late friend with whom she undoubtedly shared the shore.
Heard is horsin’ around on “Grab the Lightning.” It’s a fun little ditty dedicated to “a retired barrel racer named Rocker” and other horses she happily rode as a teenager. It’s an exceptional equine audio offering.
The next number is “I Was Never a Child.” It’s a unique, unaccompanied self-aware song. It sounds like one of those old mountain songs passed down from parent to child or even one of those pieces people sing to themselves when they’ve suffered too dearly.
“Somebody’s Someone” follows. Maybe it’s just your rockin’ reviewer, but there is something serenely serious. It certainly serves as a reminder that we’re all human and every life should be valued.
“Mandy Jane” is a slightly sad tuneful tale of a memorable mother. Like the previous pieces, it has a European feel to it somehow both in the vocals and the musical choices. This is perhaps due to the consistency in Heard’s signature sound and overall presentation.
“Sweet Days of Summer” is a modestly pretty song of select recollections and memories musically enhanced. It’s radio-friendly and radio-ready. Quite simply, it works.
The seventh selection is “Liberty.” This one focuses on immigrating to this country and the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty.
Heard heads in a new direction on the eighth audio offering. “(That’s What Makes) A Bluegrass Song” is an upbeat, welcome dose of backwoods bluegrass and country that literally lays out the standard formula in the lyrics.
“Halfway There” is actually more than halfway there (on the playlist, anyway). Complete with apostrophic poetry, this is a dramatic, solemn song concerning the many moments we spend lowering our flag to half-mast due to various violent acts and occurrences.
“Under the Maple Tree” is a solid song concerning the loss of a loved one who worked in the military. It is perhaps overshadowed by the previous piece yet retains its own identity.
The inquisitive “Ponderings (Do You Know?)” focuses on unfortunate shooting-related deaths down through history. Be it brothers who fought on opposing sides of the Civil War at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, the infamous violent event at Kent State made famous in the classic cut “Ohio”, or the accidental shooting of an unsupervised youth by a police officer, this one covers all the expected bases.
“Better This Way” makes it clear that Heard has not let up in terms of songwriting. Her trademark vocal styling remains intact as well.
The Celtic cut “Maggie’s Song” harkens back to Dundee, Scotland in 1883. Here we learn the story of a poor Scottish immigrant who traveled to the US to start a new life for her and her remaining family.
“My Body, My Voice” is a simplistic anthem that expresses the opinions of women upset that the federal government no longer has a say over their bodies. Luckily, for those with little interest in the political agendas of artists, it is the closing cut.
Overall, the album includes a heartfelt collection of what often sounds like mountain music or songs you might hear some old guitar picker playing out on the back porch. They explore such themes as love, loss, perseverance, personal reflection, political perspective, and more. She strives to write folk songs in a traditional style while taking the audience on lyrical and often dramatic journeys. So, check out Kirby Heard’s Ripples in the Wake and “Grab the Lightning.”