It’s no accident that rock guitar wizard Jon Butcher took the young Chris Pierce under his wing, or that Seal tapped him as his touring support act. Pierce’s soulful, good-natured songs and agile singing do seem a perfect pairing with Seal’s denser, more kinetic neo-soul sound. And Pierce has that scary sort of ability to make everything look easy.
Pierce’s debut CD demonstrates a large but focused talent for writing smart songs with concise, sincere lyrics. With inspirations ranging from Paul McCartney to reggae, Sam Cooke-era soul to modern blues-pop, his songs create a wide variety of moods that let him make the most of his liquid, multi-octave vocal range, which he uses to full effect without ever seeming virtuosic for the sake of showing off.
From the spare, irresistibly sunny pop of “Bye Bye Butterfly” to the spooky reggae of “Witchy Yeah Yeah” and the McCartney-rock of “Wishbone”; from the half-whispered plaint of “Because of You”‘s frustrated lover to the James Brown scream of the title track, Pierce gives his all to these songs. Though there’s plenty of good material here, his songwriting could still stand some maturing: the lyrics get a bit facile sometimes; but it’s the more noticeable because his best writing is so very good.
Superb vocals, musical variety, fine musicianship and, not least, a delighful sense of play make this debut a winner.