Music, like a secret, is better when shared.
Anna Bullard understands this. With her recorded debut, Split Heart, the Charlotte, N.C., songwriter has assembled a quiet, confident 11-song collection. But the patient and thoughtful collection is no stream-of-consciousness rush-job. Pox World Empire noticed Bullard more than three years ago, but let the artist develop her songs over time to incorporate the subtle layering and enlist the rightly understated backing to Split Heart.
But, finally opened, this album is a memory book still brimming with the immediacy of the first time Bullard set her words to chords. Her spare and sincere folk — exemplified by “Sing Real Pretty,” which buoys Bullard’s resonant voice with only a steadily bounding guitar line and quiet piano accents — might be as intimate and heartfelt as a letter never meant to be postmarked. Her simple, direct lyrics addressing any number of unnamed yous might carry the personal gravity and melancholy sting of a reluctant breakup.
But her songs might also — as on “Problem” — welcome a surge of supportive percussion and harmonic coos from a gang of friends. And, lucky for Bullard and her listeners, her friends’ support arrives in the form of warm, full sounds, subtle harmonies and considerate accompaniment. That’s what happens when you count locally respected figures like Billy Sugarfix (Evil Weiner), Zeno Gill (The Flute Flies, The Sames), and Nathan Oliver among your friends. (Gill and Oliver also produced the album) But though she shares her recording with friends and colleagues, mostly Bullard shares her songs with us. Her plaintive ballads are stark and sincere, sung with conviction and bittersweet hopefulness. Her upbeat numbers — most notably “Second Song” swing with a Zooey Deschanel lilt to the vocals and a vulnerable charm in its speaker’s infatuation.
Because Bullard is so uninhibited in her songwriting, so free of pretense or empty abstraction, she seems to be inviting her listeners into her own thoughts, like she’s sharing a secret to which we’re only too lucky to be privy.
Split Heart Review by Jeff Hahne, Creative Loafing-Charlotte:
The Deal: Charlotte songstress Anna Bullard releases debut, 11-song CD.
The Good: Split Heart kicks off with a vocal, immediately letting the listener know what's going to be front center for the duration of the disc. Bullard's voice is reminiscent of Zooey Deschanel of She & Him — enough sweetness to be soothing and enough emotion to get her point across. "Find Me In Hiding" leads off the album as her vocals lead the way over acoustic strumming and some soft drumming. There's a '50s style to the second song, aptly titled, "Second Song," about having a crush on a guy. The album is without the typical downhill slide, instead maintaining its quality from start to finish.
The Bad: Some may tag Bullard as a simple folk singer, but there's an undefinable characteristic that sets her apart. To lump her together with the monotonous majority would be a mistake. I was a bit startled by the abrupt ending of "Sing Real Pretty."
The Verdict: Bullard has a genuine tone to her vocals that gives her emotional credibility in her storytelling lyrics. Her voice provides a nice balance — a striking and appropriate contrast to the music that backs her.