On her debut solo album after many years of performing and recording with her sister Catherine in the Pierces, Allison Pierce veers sharply from the atmospheric alt-pop of the duo’s 2014 Creation album in favor of a more natural, acoustic guitar–based country sound that, at its best, is somewhat reminiscent of Emmylou Harris’ classic early work, though with Pierce’s personality strongly shining through.
Year of the Rabbit is a close collaboration with the always tasteful producer/engineer Ethan Johns, who basically plays every instrument on the album save for Pierce’s acoustic guitar, strings on two tracks played by Gabe Witcher, and one featuring the always impeccable Greg Leisz on pedal steel. Two decades of singing with her sister have given Pierce the confidence to handle her own harmonies and backing vocals on the album, and on
“It Is Well with My Soul,” to stack vocals a capella.
Most of the songs are simple, well-constructed tunes about the emotional pitfalls of relationships (her “sorry heart has a story to tell”), but she never comes off as overly self-pitying. Musically, nothing sounds forced; the arrangements in every case adroitly match the mood and thrust of the lyrics. And though no one is going to buy this to hear Pierce’s acoustic guitar skills, it must be noted that she is a fine rhythm player, whose assured strumming is always in perfect sync with her deeply felt vocals. It’s a beautifully made slice of autobiography.
In the video below, Pierce performs ‘Fool Him’ from the album, solo acoustic:
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.