Lane Brody has the voice, visage and spirit of an angel and a natural gift for singing and performing. Even when Brody's uncompromising artistic vision led her to drop out of the mainstream music industry her fans remained devoted to her, flocking to her booth each year at Nashville's Fan Fair and keeping her web site buzzing with activity.
Those loyal fans have been rewarded with the release of "Pieces of Life," the album that finally catches the breadth of Brody's musical vision. This masterwork, five years in the making, combines songs written by Brody with material written specifically for her by several songwriting luminaries and reprises her greatest hits, the Oscar nominated "Over You" and her reconfiguration of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to include a woman's perspective, "The Yellow Rose," sung as a duet with Johnny Lee.
Brody grew up in Racine, Wis., where she began singing when she was five and wrote her first song, "Through the Darkness," when she was 12 years old.
After founding an all-girl trio while still in high school, the 18-year-old went to New York, where she performed in several groups and sat in with the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson at the Village Gate.
Brody moved to Chicago, where she became a successful jingles singer and fashion model for print and TV ads. In Los Angeles she began her career as a country singer in storybook fashion. She won $100 in a talent contest at the Palomino Club and went on to become a regular performer at that country music showcase.
From there she landed a record deal and made an immediate impact when her first single, "He's Taken," became a No. 1 record in many country markets.
Brody went on to her highest-profile success in 1983 when she co-wrote and sang "Over You" for the soundtrack of "Tender Mercies."
"Over You" was a hit in both pop and country formats and went on to be nominated for an Oscar, making Lane the first female country singer to have an Oscar-nominated hit from a soundtrack album.
In 1984 Brody and John Weilder updated the 19th century classic "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and came up with the theme song for the TV series "The Yellow Rose." The duet version sung by Brody and Johnny Lee became a No. 1 hit and was BMI's Most-Performed Song of the Year.
Brody's 1985 album, "Lane Brody," did well, yielding a pair of hits with the Bobby Lee Springfield-penned "He Burns Me Up" and the stirring "Baby's Eyes." A year later she teamed up with Johnny Lee again for another duet hit, "I Could Get Used to This."
Brody went on to record several projects that never saw fruition and she gradually realized that she had been marked as an outsider in the tightly knit Nashville music establishment. Rather than succumb to the compromises that she was faced with, Brody chose to stick to making her music her own way and waiting out the fashion trends until her time came again.
"I wanted to remain pure to the spirit of what my music always meant to me," she said. "If that meant not putting out albums or touring as much as I might want, so be it. My fans have stuck by me, which has been a great incentive."
"Pieces of Life" was co-produced by Brody and her husband Eddie Bayers along with the legendary Barry Beckett. Jim Weathery and Donnie Kees contributed the album-opener, "Till You Found Me," a magnificent love song that builds from the acoustic guitar-accompanied first verse to full orchestration on the chorus.
"Plenty More Love," by Chris Crawford and Karen Staley, is an exuberant, almost Everly Brothers-sounding romp that showcases Brody's amazing voice against beautiful steel guitar accompaniment on the bridge and her own overdubbed accompaniment on the out chorus.
Brody delves to the center of heartbreak on the slow ballad "Every Time I Think of Losing You," by Ira Antellis, Susan Collins and David Buskin, with Paul Franklin's crying steel guitar cushioning her gorgeous vocal. Her own "My Mind Wanders" continues a torch song trilogy that culminates with the exquisite emotion of "Over You."
"The Song" is a particularly complex piece of writing by Bobby Whiteside and Alex Call, the bittersweet story of a woman who falls in love with a songwriter but loses him in the end.
Lee Roy Parnell adds a rollicking electric guitar break to the feel-good anthem "The Yellow Rose," included here in an edited version for airplay and an extended mix that lets the song breathe.
"All the Unsung Heroes" is also presented in two versions, one a stark requiem with simple piano, acoustic guitar and strings accompaniment, the other with a full band and Brody singing a duet with Collin Raye.
Brody's "White Shadows," sung with Alison Krauss, is a stunningly animistic lyric that praises the simple glories of creation curled around a tearfully beautiful melody. The string arrangement complements their vocals perfectly. This is devotional music that transcends all sectarian boundaries.