Etienne de Rocher
Etienne de Rocher Etienne de Rocher was born to French-professor parents in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and spent a few years as an academically advanced physics major at UC Berkeley in the late 1980s -- is fascinating. But it hardly explains the depth and complexity of his songwriting and record making.

Etienne de Rocher, issued by San Francisco's Fog City Records, and already selling like hotcakes in one Berkeley record store, provides the evidence: lyrics with both provocative metaphors ("I became the fruit and you / you became the knife," "danger is a temporary drug / can make you feel so bad sometimes / cause there's real, and there's moonshine") and real-life anecdotes ("I went backstage one day / to meet Beck / I gave him my record / he did not care a speck"); acoustic guitar- and piano-based arrangements with bass (Todd Sickafoose), drums (Todd Roper), cello (Marika Hughes), violin (Alan Lin), percussion and various surprise ornamentations that hark back to Nick Drake chamber-folk, After the Gold Rush-era Neil Young and the acoustic jazz/prog-folk of Tim Buckley, Fred Neil and Led Zeppelin; alternate guitar tunings reminiscent of Davey Graham and other British fingerstyle folk guitarists; and vocals that recall the breathy intonations of Elliott Smith, the intimate and conversational Paul Simon and the soulful falsettos of Jeff Buckley and, especially, Prince.