Emily O’Halloran: Morphine and Cupcakes

Emily O'Halloran
Morphine and Cupcakes
Tear Stained
2011-09-20

Remember hearing The Cowboy Junkies for the first time, back in the late ’80s, and thinking, “Wow, this is some seriously mellow stuff?” We’ve come a long way since then, kids: Australian-born Emily O’Halloran sings a kind of languid, narcotic-tinged country-folk that makes Magro Timmins sound like Courtney Love. This isn’t to say the songs are bad — suffused with longing and quiet hopelessness, they’re not bad at all. Just don’t try to dance to any of them. Or, like, drive a car.

Opening track “Kindness” carries echoes of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” played at half-speed, possibly underwater. O’Halloran sings evocatively, alternating between a hushed breathy whisper and a somewhat less hushed but still plaintive semi-moan. Guitars, bass and keyboards are all mixed down into a swampy murk, out of which O’Halloran’s voice rises, just barely. “Gate Opener” and “Free Man” both show a bit of vocal and musical muscle, but generally, this is introspective rainy day music, for those days when The Cowboy Junkies are just too darn lively. Morphine and cupcakes? Got that right.

RATING 7 / 10
PopMatters