BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Jim Bianco found an unusual source of inspiration for his new album, a tack that found him asking 17 different people the same 69 questions about their lives, memories, desires and circumstance. Their answers inspired the 18 songs that populate this effort, each unique, insightful, happy and heartbreaking.
Perhaps because these songs are so personal and gleaned from actual individuals, there’s a poignancy that resides within each which becomes all the more affecting. The narratives that precede each song are, by turns, humorous, revealing, captivating and creepy, but the sincerity inherent in each introduction inspires some especially moving moments – the confessional ballad “California,” the tale of a separated military couple documented in “I’ll Be There For You,” the sweet promise of making memories with a first kiss in “Billy Baker,” the woman born with a brain tumor who celebrates survival in “Miracle.” Bianco treats the melodies with thrift and simplicity, crafting his arrangements with piano, acoustic guitar, a tender vocal and little else, ensuring the sentiments are laid bare and made vulnerable, with results that are both engaging and endearing.
Bianco deserves kudos for expanding beyond his parameters and finding a way to make a new connection, not only with his listeners, but with a basic humanity as well. Cookie Cutter is hardly what its title describes, but instead, an original effort indeed.
DOWNLOAD: “I’ll Be There For You,” “Billy Baker,” “California”