If there are actually five stages of grief, Nashville singer/songwriter Madi Diaz may have stumbled on a few more levels of pain on her ANTI- Records debut, History of a Feeling, where she explores her sense of loss at the ending of a significant relationship. Diaz left the Berklee College of Music to self-release her first album, Skin and Bone, in 2007, and has produced a half dozen EP’s and full-length albums before signing with the major label.
“Rage” opens this break-up album, which fits neatly into the established anger stage as defined by psychology studies, but Diaz isn’t Chrissie Hynde or even Alanis Morissette, so she quietly internalizes her feelings, and when she sings about “kicking in your bathroom door” in “Man in Me,” it’s with regret long after the event in an exercise of self-awareness. As she processes her grief, Diaz recounts “Crying in Public,” coping with “Resentment,” and hoping the object of her affections will “Think of Me” even when he’s making love to his new girlfriend.
One can make a strong case that some of the best albums come from break-ups and experiences of profound loss. And Diaz brings all her poetic and songwriting skills into service as she works to put this painful experience in perspective. But first she’s got to get the other “Woman in My Heart” off her mind and come to terms with the fact that “I’m not really looking to get healthy,” as she sings in “Nervous.” Diaz has found inspiration here no doubt, but History of a Feeling is also an exercise in self-discovery and affirmation, as she realizes she really needs to make a break with the past in “New Person, Old Place.”
Diaz uses instrumentation carefully. Early on all that’s called for is a piano or a gently picked acoustic guitar, but in “Forever” she matches her strong melodic sensibility with a full orchestra, giving her lyrics resonance and depth. At the mid-point, in “Woman in My Heart” she utilizes as grungy slow rock band groove, while “Nervous” lets the band punctuate her edgy state of mind. But in the set closing “Do It Now,” she channels her own inner Carole King at the piano as she pleads, “If you’re going to love me do it now.” She may “not be good at emotions” in the moments, but like the best of songwriters, Diaz is able to capture her experiences and the feelings that followed in strong musical statements, placing her own break-up album in good stead alongside the works of Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and all those other songwriters who share their grief and most intimate feelings with all the other heart-broken lovers of the world.
Brian Q. Newcomb
For more of Brian Q. Newcomb’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note
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