Review:'HORTON, HEATHER LYNNE' 'Don't Mess With Mrs Murphy'
- Label: 'At The Helm Records'
- Genre: 'Indie'
- Release Date: '1st September 2017'- Catalogue No: 'ATH196918'
Heather Lynne Horton is one half of 'The Westies' from Chicago; a duo in which she is somewhat overshadowed by husband Michael McDermott.
This solo album reveals her as a singer, songwriter and violinist who is no longer content to play second fiddle.
The press statement boldly proclaims that the record "speaks for all women toiling and wrestling with the struggles attached to their multitude of roles".
On the back sleeve there's a nude photo of Horton looking emaciated in high heels while chained to an almost empty shopping cart; an image that is clearly meant to satirize the male concept of what it means to be a complete woman. The fact that she still has her violin with her at least indicates that all is not lost.
Yet despite the stridently feminist impetus behind the record, Horton actually sounds more resigned than raging. The "fuck you" on the song F.U. is delivered more as a sweet refrain than an insult.
And although in Pauper Sky she sings of having an "empty heart and soul", she neither expects nor invites pity. Instead, an overriding sense of vulnerability and sadness means that these songs amount to personal reflections drawn from experience which never try to simplify life's complexities or draw glib conclusions.
The opening track,Murphy's Law, with its swirling Daniel Lanois type production by Lex Price, is about the irrational act of clinging to a love "like a loyal pet" that offers little to the woman's self esteem.
The gently melodic Wheelchair Man deals with physical disability. The video suggests it was written for and about injured war veterans. The repeated line "I am a man who cannot stand" is meant in two senses - the inability to walk and indignity of enforced forbearance - "I am a man who cannot stand to watch the golden ladies shuffle by".
Save The Rain is about wanting to protect her daughter from the cruelties and injustice in the world ("I want to keep you from harm") while the tender reflections in the closing song, I Wanna Die In My Sleep are genuinely touching.
Subtle and poetic songs of this quality make this a very impressive and affecting album that demands and rewards repeated listens.