[28 April 2009]
On the basis of her nicely polished, undeniably pretty, frequently dull third album Blazing Red, singer-songwriter Anne Heaton appears to have missed her boat by a good 10 or 12 years. A decade ago, Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour provided young female musicians (and several of their elder stateswomen) of a certain McLachlan-esque ilk with a spotlight shone on their otherwise niche genre of sensitive, mild-mannered folk-pop. Heaton’s work falls well within the Lilith Fair parameters, with hints of jazzy elasticity on “The Only Way Out Is In”, classical chamber music on instrumental closer “Strings OV” and country twang both in the sentimental ballad “Momma to You” and in the slightly Parton-esque soft tinge to her vocals, but never strays too far from the middle of the road. With the dominant poses in young female musicians having shifted en masse, in recent years, from restraint and nurturing to brattiness and petulance, Heaton’s embrace of these quickly-forgotten virtues nearly makes Blazing Red a welcome breath of fresh air, but the fact remains that it is still only very occasionally, as on the captivating “Jump” and the gently melodic “Out to Sea”, that these songs rise above their self-imposed genre restrictions. For an album so vibrantly titled, Blazing Red curiously ends up being made out of too much craft and too little fire.