Libby Kirkpatrick's first recording, Songs from the Ether, is a good example of a CD that started life as a demo but subsequently ended up being released commercially. When Kirkpatrick recorded Songs from the Ether in the late '90s, the disc was meant to be a promotional item -- one that she would send to labels and club owners (if they needed to hear a sample of her work) and sell at her gigs. But in 2002 -- after Kirkpatrick had signed with Heart Music -- Songs from the Ether finally became commercially available and was sold in stores. And there is no reason why this CD shouldn't have found its way to retail; in terms of sound quality and performances, Songs from the Ether is excellent. The word demo (short for demonstration) often conjures up images of a recording that lacks state-of-the-art sound quality -- not necessarily bad sound, just not state-of-the-art. But Songs from the Ether, which Kirkpatrick produced herself, has a very clean and rich sound. The only thing that might sound low-budget to some listeners is the lack of a full band; most of the time, Kirkpatrick's only accompaniment is her own acoustic guitar (although cellist Hannah Alkire joins her on a few tracks). Not that the minimalist, bare-bones accompaniment is a bad thing; the lack of a full band makes for a very intimate CD, and really makes Kirkpatrick's lyrics stand out on vulnerable, introspective tracks like "Dark Angel" and "Falling Still." Slick, glossy production can, in some cases, be an attempt to camouflage a lack of talent, but Kirkpatrick doesn't need a lot of synthesizers and high-tech gloss to sound good. Demo or not, Songs from the Ether underscores Kirkpatrick's considerable potential as both a lyricist and a vocalist.