Patrice Pike Reviewed
Patrice Pike & the Black Box RebellionFencing Under Fire (Zainwayne) Patrice Pike has come of age. Grown into her thick-throated wail and come away with a husky come-hither. Cool, confident. Joan Osborne maybe. And as Pike strolls through the 12 tunes of her solo debut, Fencing Under Fire reveals that Austin's long-beloved Little Sister has taken a step back, and in the process, moved miles on down the road. Where once she stretched as a singer, bending phrases till they broke, now her voice fills the spaces like smoke among the shadows. Black Box Rebellion, under the direction of her Sister 7 brotherman/guitarist Wayne Sutton, lays back as well, letting horns and samples share the stage. More detailing of this sort would be welcome. When Pike does let her instrument sing, on a number like the low-key "Angels," it's teasing, trilling here, a throaty aside there. Her trademark Midwestern fonk remains on songs like "Me and Smooth," but the groove has been traded out for vibe, chill, simmering fare such as "Sweet November." The streetwise strut of "Jackknife" is warm and buttery, the whole album begging for a modern soul approach (think Meshell Ndegéocello next time), though the roomy adult radio glow of "The Wreckage" fits Pike like worn, hip-hugging denim. Choruses on the order of "Ms. Ramona" aren't as commonplace as they should be, the same going for narratives; then again, the social conscience of "The Honey Tree Lie," credited "for the children in the South Bronx & Jonathan Kozol," works its compassion admirably. The last two songs, "All the Pieces" and "Volcanoes," are noticeably underwritten, but as Pike grows into her role as solo artist and songwriter, the only thing you'll notice is all the pieces in place.