Heidi Berry cut a stark contrast to the prevailing musical mentality of the early '90s -- despite releasing records on both Creation and 4AD, together the leading lights of the shoegazing and dream pop movements, her haunting, luminous folk-inspired sound instead harked back to the work of Sandy Denny and Nick Drake, complete with an earnestness and raw honesty far removed from her irony drenched times.
Berry was born in 1958 and raised in Boston, MA, the child of an American actor father and a French-Canadian jazz-singing mother. In 1973, her mother remarried and the family relocated to London, where Berry began writing songs in the mold of heroines like Marianne Faithfull and Chrissie Hynde; in 1985, while studying painting and printmaking at Middlesex Polytechnic, she recorded a private demo tape that then-boyfriend Pete Astor (later of the Loft, Weather Prophets, and Wisdom of Harry fame) suggested she shop around. Berry declined the offer, but a copy of the tape still made its way to Creation honcho Alan McGee, who tracked her down and offered a record deal. She accepted, and issued her six-song debut Fireflyin 1987; owing far more to Linda Thompson than Creation labelmates like the Jesus & Mary Chain, it was followed two years later by Below the Waves, a stark, poignant effort highlighted by the fan favorite "North Shore Train." Berry's relationship with Creation grew strained, however, and while opening for Felt and Lush, she was spotted by 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell, who asked her to record a cover of Emmylou Harris' "'Til I Gain Control Again" for 1991's Blood, the third LP by his rotating musical collective This Mortal Coil. Berry signed to 4AD to release her next solo effort, 1991's Love, recorded with producer Pete Walsh and an ace backing group including Levitation guitarist Terry Bickers and bassist Laurence O'Keefe, in addition to avant-garde saxophonist Lol Coxhill. Her self-titled masterpiece followed in 1993, notching a minor hit with the lovely "The Sun and the Moon" and yielding an American tour alongside fellow 4AD act Red House Painters. However, despite continued critical acclaim, 1995's Miracle failed to make waves behind Berry's cult audience and she was released from her contract. With the exception of the 1999 single "Needle's Eye" -- recorded with former Kitchens of Distinction frontman Patrick Fitzgerald under the name Lost Girls -- she remained silent in the years to follow. The compilation Pomegranate appeared on 4AD in 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi