The mid-nineties were a hard time for me.
When I first popped in Martha Berner’s Ten Tiny Little Pieces EP that’s what I thought I was getting. The title track starts off a bit boring, sounding like most piano-driven singer-songwriter fare. Berner’s voice begins timid and a bit hollow, and I was ready to pop the CD out right there. However, my journalistic obligations forced me to power through, and good things come to those who wait.
Halfway through the first track the song break down into a sweet piano/string/harmonica jam that snapped me to attention and then dropped off to set Berner up for a vocal duet with sparse piano in the background. Though done hundreds of times before, this tack worked well for her as it perfectly showcased her voice which had slowly but surely grown quite strong and lovely (and at times strikingly similar to Natalie Merchant’s).
“Down and Out In San Francisco” and “Wait for Me” both have sunny overtones, the latter having a poppy drive that makes you bounce up and down in your seat. Berner also covers The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning”. I’m not familiar with the original version (-10 points of street cred for me!) so I can’t compare it, but it’s by far my least favorite on the EP.
The song stylings on this EP definitely have a twinge of early- to mid- nineties influence, but Berner’s voice carries her through. If she continues to go in the direction of “Ten Tiny Little Pieces” I’d be pleased.
You can catch Ms. Berner live on her CD release tour – Ten Tiny Little Pieces EP drops 1/23/07.
You can hear 3/4 of the EP and get tour dates here.