[8 March 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The third album and Signature Sounds debut for singer-songwriter Heather Maloney is a record that is filled with standard folksy and slightly countrified sounds. It is, in a word, competent. There’s not much that is particularly special about Maloney’s Fleetwood Mac-esque way around a song, but it is what it is, and those who like this sort of thing will find a great deal to really like about this album, though it works best when Maloney is challenging herself, as she does by singing against hand-claps on “Hey Broken”. And she’s backed by a real powerhouse by utilizing the talents of the noted octogenarian chorus Young@Heart on “Grace”. There’s some lovely songs here to be sure, such as the soulful “Miss Mary Mack” and opener “Great Imposter”. It’s just that there’s an overt sense of familiarity to the material, and Maloney doesn’t do an awful lot to distinguish herself from similar stuff. That doesn’t mean that the record isn’t great, but it’s just rather plain.
There is one characteristic flaw in this self-titled album, and it’s that Maloney has trouble ending it. By the time you get to the ballad “Grace”, it seems like the perfect album closer. But, no, it’s followed by two more songs that are in a similarly quiet mode, “Darlene” and “Flying on Helium”. So there’s a bit of a problem with sequencing, bolstered more so by the fact that the album has its share of ballads throughout its running time. Thus, there could be a bit more variance. Still, what’s on display here really isn’t all that bad, and this record proves that Maloney is a talent to watch—once she hones her sound a little more and takes a few more chances with her material. If you like folksy country in the singer-songwriter mode, you’ll like Heather Maloney. However, if you’re looking for something more, you might be inspired to look at other groups in the Signature Sounds catalogue, such as Lake Street Dive, Miss Tess and Joy Kills Sorrow, instead.