Dallas Morning News on “Motherlode”

CD review: Sophisticated songs from Sara Hickman
Hickman reminds us that her voice remains a force
By THOR CHRISTENSEN / The Dallas Morning News
Texas singer Sara Hickman has spent so many years singing kids’ music that it’s easy to forget how good she sounds doing songs a tad more sophisticated than "Oh I Wish I Were a Fishy in the Sea."
Motherlode is a potent reminder. A two-CD concept piece on the pain and joys of womanhood, it’s also a Whitman’s Sampler of styles, ranging from Afro-pop ("Birdhouse") to hip-hop soul ("Enuf ") to a gypsy funk spin on "Mother’s Little Helper." She’s made her name as a folk singer, but Ms. Hickman shines at anything she puts her warm soprano on.
Disc one is the darker of the two, with tunes about depression, murder and women "Living in Quiet Desperation." The high point arrives in her version of Tears for Fears’ "Mad World," which begins with a siren and grows more foreboding from there.
Disc two lightens the mood, especially when Ms. Hickman twangs up Amy Rigby’s "Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?" She reinterprets a dozen tunes in all, including "Learn You Like a Book," a chiming love song co-written by Dallas’ Colin Boyd. But she’s a fine songwriter in her own right, as she shows with "Comfort’s Sigh," a haunting tune built upon a timeless melody.
Guest stars crop up all over the place, including the Austin string group Tosca, guitar whiz Adrian Belew and singers Kelly Willis and Jimmy LaFave. Shawn Colvin adds harmony on "Two Days Today," an infectious folk-pop strut that sounds, for lack of a better term, Colvin-esque.
But the guests never steal the spotlight from Ms. Hickman’s expansive voice. She’s least impressive when she’s doing a dead-on Joni Mitchell impersonation, but those moments are few and far between. Motherlode is a rich source of jazz, gospel, country and soul without a single kiddie song in sight.

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