Following her critically-acclaimed debut, 2006’s Never be, Brooklyn-based country-folk singer Kelley McRae takes a more experimental route to the coffee house this time around. And with Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) replacing J.D. Foster (Laura Cantrell) in the producer’s chair on Highrises in Brooklyn, it was only to be expected that a certain amount of synthesized scratch, crackle and bleep would be utilized to flesh out McRae’s rootsy tales of late-night bars and fractured relationships—not to mention the synthesizer-generated hand-claps on the otherwise catchy electro-pop of the title-track. The real magic, however, happens in front of the mic when McRae’s sweet, seemingly wood-smoked larynx, pitched somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Michelle Shocked, is allowed to take flight and soar on the handful of stripped-down numbers like the bluesy “Last Call Town” and album highlight “Sparrow”, a fluttering melancholy ballad. Sometimes a great voice and acoustic guitar really are all you need.
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