Edie Brickell's voice rustles across the miles like a warm autumnal breeze - soothing and even but with the vague rumbling of a coming storm.
"I just want to have a positive effect on people and just tell people in a subtle way that if there are horrible things around you, you can still pull yourself out of bad feelings," she said in a recent telephone interview. "I think people can relate to things I write about and it gives them a sense of confidence and makes them feel good."That may sound a little naive. But it's the sort of naivete that has always padded the lyrics of pop tunes, the kind of honest, awkward sentiment that makes you feel a certain rhythm and meter in your life, makes you think, maybe, someone understands.
But that's not to say Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians are your run-of-the-mill pop band. With but a single album, "Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars," with the hit "What I Am" to their credit, Edie and the guys shot up the record charts and have mounted a national tour.
And on Wednesday, May 10, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians will bring their show to Symphony Hall at 7:30 p.m. Guitarist Steve Forbert will open.
Now, a hit album and national tour is quite a feat for someone who five years ago was milling around Southern Methodist University wondering what she would do with her life. She never thought of a career in music; she admits only her grandmother ever told her she could sing. In fact, she never sang publicly until that pivotal moment in 1985 when, as a dare, she mounted a night club stage and joined the New Bohemians for a few impromptu tunes. The band members liked her so much that they asked her to join up.
There's probably a good reason why a career in music never occurred to Brickell. Her voice is pleasant, but raspy; not quite as gravelly as a Rod Stewart or Kim Carnes, but wholly without the range of Eurythmics' Annie Lennox or the reasonance of the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. But it does have the signature that lifted the band from the obscurity of the Dallas club scene.
For inspiration, she turns to such diverse talents as Little Feat, to Bob Marley, Frank Zappa and XTC. Songs like "What I Am," "The Wheel" and "Air of December" are clean, somewhat ethereal folk ballads that show the band at its best, while "Beat the Time" and "Keep Coming Back" are somewhat awkward attempts at up tempo rockers that, nonetheless, give the necessary variety.
But will success spoil them?
"We're too stubborn to sell out," she said. "We just want to do something that we're proud of and better and more mature. Sometimes it's hard to sing `What I Am.' I wrote that four years ago, and I've changed a lot since then. It really has to do with me turning things around. I held a lot of crummy jobs in a short amount of time. Once I turned it around and went for this, things started falling in place, and I changed in a big way."
She says their new music (which they have yet to record) is even better.
"I love it. Our new stuff is so much better. I look back on the album and our old stuff is lukewarm."