Patrice Pike

Friday, January 16; Off Broadway

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There is no record of Patrice Pike having to lift up a boiling cauldron of water and hot coals with her forearms, branding the symbol of an ancient musical order on her wrists as she earned her chops. Other than that, Pike's path to music pretty much resembled the training of a Shaolin monk: From birth she was surrounded by talent and people fostering her skills. From being raised in smoky Dallas bars by her musician stepfather to matriculating at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she had Erykah Badu as a classmate and a one-on-one lesson with Wynton Marsalis, Pike was as well trained as any bald-headed David Carradine look-alike.

You can hear it in her voice. It isn't the over-trained perfection of a vibrato-obsessed diva, but the supple-yet-strong twang of a country gal who has mastered her instrument. When she barks, when she pleads, when she seduces, it is with intent, and you feel what she wants you to feel. Pike is a veteran, having traveled with the famed Austin jam band Sister Seven, whose members eventually focused and polished themselves out of the noodling genre and into respectability -- and then of course broke up just as they were hitting their artistic peak.

Pike is still up there on the peak, crafting solid country rock and ballads for her own label, ZainWayne Records (founded with former Sister Seven member and longtime collaborator Wayne Sutton), and polishing and pumicing that stressed and gorgeous voice. She's not a grasshopper anymore.

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