I was a bit of a latecomer to Sixpence having only discovered the group after their smash hit “Kiss Me” played everywhere on the radio, but I have come to love their music. The unique voice of their lead singer Leigh Nash is definitely the first thing that impresses you upon listening to their music. However, it is their well-written lyrics and interesting musical style (largely by Matt Slocum) that really made them a solid group. Sixpence initially parted ways in 2004, leaving a lot of good music in their wake, but they thankfully continue to reunite from time to time to make more. Leigh Nash has gone on to her own solo acclaim as well (see below).
The Fatherless and the Widow (1994)
Sixpence’s debut album showcases the basics of what the band is all about—Leigh Nash’s lilting voice singing Matt Slocum’s complex, often literary, lyrics and wandering melodies. Some of the songs do come across a bit clunky in comparison to their stronger later works, but I think the album is an impressive first step for a very young group and shows why they got noticed. I particularly like the title song and some of the songs are surprisingly personal (‘Soul’,’An Apology’).
This Beautiful Mess (1995)
This album was a bit of a backwards step in my opinion. Seemingly trying to make their sound a bit more consciously artsy, they add a heavy guitar and bass line to many songs–presumably as a moody contrast their acoustic underpinning–but lose both the beauty of the songs and the sound of Leigh Nash’s voice (not only does she seem to sing too strongly but her vocals even get unnecessary electronic treatment at some points). Still, the heavy hand does sound nice on some songs like ‘Within a Room Somewhere’.
Sixpence None the Richer (1998)
The group got the formula exactly right on this album. While it was the catchy single “Kiss Me” that made everyone really stand up and take notice, the rest of the album follows more from their previous work acoustic guitar used on odd melodies, unexpected rhythms, and lyrical depth of lyrics. However, the production is much better—lots of strings and other instrumentation that complement the unique melodies and are understated enough to let Leigh Nash’s voice be clear and unadulterated. The songs are more mature and intellectual and while not exactly catchy, they are very easy to listen to.
Divine Discontent (2002)
With more electric guitar and keyboard, Sixpence delivers a set of quite enjoyable songs which paint colorful pictures and stories. It’s definitely more of a pop style album (though not bouncy in the vein of ‘Kiss Me’). Nevertheless, many of the songs still reflect a personal and sometimes painfully introspective songwriting style such as the account of hearing about a friend’s death in “Paralyzed”. The songs hit a wider range of styles and have much more clearly defined melodies and broader arrangements than earlier works. I think it represents Sixpence at the height of their creativity.
The Best of Sixpence None the Richer (2004)
When the group not-so-permanently disbanded in 2004, they put together a ‘last’ album which gives a good overview of their work. It contains the bigger songs from the group’s albums, two new songs, and a ton of interesting singles released on soundtracks and various artists projects that can’t be found on their studio albums. Check out the covers of ABBA (“Dancing Queen”) and the Beach Boys (“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”).
Dawn of Grace (2008)
Reuniting to make a very nice mellow Christmas album, Sixpence offers a number of Christmas/winter season songs that are non-traditional takes on old favorites plus a few new songs as well.
Lost in Transition (2012)
A great (and surprising considered the disbanded eight years before) album from the group with a rich melodic progression of Discontent with the personal lyrics of Sixpence. The more I listen to the album the more I find to like: the brilliant metaphoric imagery of “Safety Line”, the catchy bounce of “Shouldn’t Be this Hard”, the spiritual ache of “Give It Back”…
Sixpence has done a huge number of singles on various artist CDs and soundtracks for a lot of projects. They also have released several EPs and retrospectives; their EP ‘My Dear Machine’ heralded their return in 2008, years before the appearance of the songs on their new album. Some of my particular favorite non-album contributions include the song “Breathe” on Streams (1999), “The Ground You Shook” from Roaring Lambs (2000), and “Brighten My Heart” from Exodus (1998). For a full list of releases, click here.
LEIGH NASH SOLO ALBUMS:
Lead singer Leigh Nash has put her unique voice to good use on a few solo albums…
Blue on Blue (2006)
The layers of production throughout Blue on Blue make Nash’s waifish voice shine and her co-written melodies are a lilting and beautiful brand of pop. This is a hugely favorite album of mine—especially the songs “Along the Wall”, “Never Finish”, and “Blue”.
Hymns and Sacred Songs (2011)
Nash offers retakes on several old hymns and new worship songs on this album. The new melodies on several of the very old hymns are especially interesting and give a whole new modern character to the words (e.g. the great banjo underpinning on “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”) while some newer songs sounds like old classics (“Song of Moses”).
The State I’m In (2015)
Leigh Nash turns to her Texas roots on this one with songs that recall the feisty ‘he done me wrong’ songs of old country, packed with steel-pedal, fiddle, and Tijuana brass. A friend who saw Leigh Nash in concert said she laughingly apologized for this album being so obviously written from a dark place (her divorce). It is most decidedly not a very Christian based album as it dwells on lost love from a vantage point of bitterness, disdain, and escape in drugs and alcohol. Despite it being so far away thematically from her other work, the songs themselves are quite fun and obviously very different.