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Missy Higgins
On A Clear Night
Reprise Records
www.missyhiggins.com


On her latest release On A Clear Night, Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins displays the amber-toned registers of Sarah McLachlan with the R&B opulence of Vanessa Carlton and a coarse organza mesh resembling Avril Lavigne. While most artists like to start their album with an upbeat vibe to set the tone, Higgins actually starts off with a somber cadence on the opening track "Where I Stood." The number has a soft acoustic-pop resonance seeping through its candlelit shafts with words that are resolute, saying farewell to someone very special who has been an integral part of one's life, "I don't know who I am without you…You taught me how to trust myself." Higgins finalizes the track with "She can love you more than I could." Starting an album off with a break-up is not the way most artists are expected to open an album, but it is the way an artist may start an album if a story is about to be told from the point when a change is about to commence, which is where Higgins begins On A Clear Night.

Higgins tells in her bio on her website that after the fast-paced success of her debut album The Sound Of White in 2005, everything was happening so quickly that she needed to catch herself before losing herself in the whirlwind. On A Clear Night takes audiences through that period in her life as the album kicks up its heels with a modern pop vibed vitality coursing through "100 Round The Bends," and the cheerful fuses molding the modern country textures of "Steer." "Sugarcane" extracts a contemplative piano ballad that reveals wells of emotions showing Missy Higgins' instinctive skill to reach the core of emotional currents. The smoky bar-room blues paraglides of "Secret" are chilling as Higgins' vocals demonstrate tingling sensations in the curling scales of her notes. The remainder of the album keeps to soft-pop graphics and warm tones boarding "Warm Whispers" and "The Wrong Girl," as the willowy country-folk trysts and rocking chair rhythms of "Angela" and "Going North" fold elegantly beneath Higgins vocals. The upbeat tempo of "Peachy" is accentuated with bluesy folk etchings emblematic of fine craftsmanship with Higgins vocals terracing the melodic seams.

Missy Higgins latest effort is [filled with] tunes that are unclouded lyrically and uncluttered melodically. Her voice rises above the melodies like a pine tree in a bed of forsythia bushes. Since her songs go from bluesy folk and country to modern pop and candlelight acoustics, no calculated measures were taken to make the album sound like anything other than emotional. Giving credence to the statement from her website, "Her undeniable songs and unforgettable live performances to build a genuine and gimmick free connection with her audience." Produced by Mitchell Froom who helmed the first three Crowded House albums as well as works by such artists as Ron Sexsmith, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and the Finn Brothers, On A Clear Night clarifies to Missy Higgins and her audience that she is more than a one-dimensional artist who can look to one song to define her entire being.

-Susan Frances

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