Angie Heaton has been bouncing around the Champaign-Urbana indie pop scene for well over a decade, first as a member of a number of minor outfits and later as a sporadic solo artist who has released three prior solo albums since 1996. However, Heaton's The Rumor Mill, her first album in three years and her first with the country trio the Gentle Tamers backing her, is fresh and different enough from her sometimes lackluster previous work that it sounds like a creative rebirth, as if it's her true debut album. Though a rootsy sensibility has always been at the heart of Heaton's aesthetic, The Rumor Mill is a flat out country album. It's barely even alt country: the best tracks here, like the mournful bad-girl-blues "Heaven's State Line," would sound great on mainstream Nashville radio alongside Gretchen Wilson and Miranda Lambert singles. Indeed, if they're smart, Wilson and Lambert will fight among themselves for the right to cover the galloping title track, and will hire lead guitarist Bob Watson to re-create his killer Duane Eddy-like twang guitar hook. However, Heaton allows herself one show of hipster suss, and it's a doozy: taking British twee popsters the Trembling Blue Stars' mournful dirge "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise" and turning it into a masterful Tex-Mex border town opera that recalls Calexico and Devotchka on one hand and Roy Orbison on the other is a conceptual masterstroke that's also the most arresting, enchanting song on the album. The Rumor Mill is both a surprising mid-career reboot and the sort of sleeper album that can and should turn up on a lot of end of year best-of lists.
The Rumor Mill Review
by Stewart Mason