Angie Heaton

Let It Ride

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Angie Heaton's third album, Let It Ride, could have been just another early-2000s Americana and singer/songwriter record to be filed away and forgotten about. All the clich├ęd pieces are in place -- from the twangy guitars to the occasional drum loops to the dusty atmospheres -- but Heaton's voice, her quietly introspective outlook, and the restrained but not rote production save the record from mediocrity. Heaton doesn't have a classic female singer/songwriter voice; there isn't much drama in her and she doesn't sing three notes when one will do the trick. The tiny quaver isn't there for show; it is there because she is trying to stay on pitch. None of which is wrong at all. In fact, it lends her songs an honest and immediate feel. Heaton sounds like a regular girl with real feelings, not a "singer" trying to sell the listener a "song." Her songs deal with universal themes of love and loss, not the pages of her diary, and they are more often than not wrapped in fine melodies and produced with a light touch that keeps her tender voice directly in the spotlight. At her best, on songs like the gentle opener "It's Easier When You're Here" and "Drive," Heaton crafts a sound that tugs on your sleeve like a kid sister, shyly telling you secrets. "Godspeed the Plough" is probably the song on the album that typifies this sound most, but the whole record will give you that feeling. Some of the album's other highlights are "Let It Ride," a rambunctious rocker that sounds like a lost Midwest Fastbacks classic; "Be Still," a downhearted ballad with some fine minor chords, sweet male backing vocals, and a very affecting vocal from Heaton; and "Lemonade," a chiming ballad with some of her most incisive lyrics and more fine backing vocals. She also does a wonderful country-rock version of Cheap Trick's classic "Downed." The record drags a little in the middle due to too many slow tunes in a row, but overall Heaton has come up with a low-key gem here. Hopefully, there won't be another six years to wait for the next record.

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