Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., July 7, 2006
It's been years since Austin songstress Sara Hickman made music for mommies and daddies her last "adult" record was 2003's endearing Faithful Heart but the local singer-songwriter catapults herself back into the world of grownups with the 2-CD Motherlode, in which she mines the complexities of modern-day motherhood. Despite a strong thematic connection between the two discs, the first half of this ambitious project is, hands down, the stronger of the two. Disc one, "The Mirror (of Despair)," explores ways women are held prisoner by society, and, by extension, themselves. "Wagoner's Lad" envisions a young woman of the 19th century taking her sexual power into her own hands, resisting systematic control imposed by patriarchy. Perhaps the most powerful track here is "Mad World," a haunting version of the Tears for Fears moper sung from a mother's perspective. At times stunningly sad, "The Mirror" is well-suited to one of Dr. Seuss' purple days. "The Thread (of Happiness)," disc two, is more down to earth, focusing on the ups and downs of day-to-day existence, and flirts dangerously with hokum. It kicks off with the sunny "Birdhouse," set in Hickman's back yard and concerned with the freedom afforded by love as represented by two birds preening each other. Kids' music sneaks in on "Little Bird of Anger," a lesson in swatting off those pesky negative emotions while children provide the backup vocals. "Your Reward" closes Hickman's joyful ruminations about life with gospel sway. "This is your reward, spit up on the floor at four in the morning," she sings without a hint of regret. And God bless her, she's right. Motherhood may tie a woman down, but it's not always a prison.