Heather Lynne Horton. Don’t Mess With Mrs. Murphy. At The Helm Records

hlh-dmwmm-cd-cover-final-copyBlabber’n’Smoke has showered praise on Michael McDermott and his band, The Westies, in the past and we even suggested that his wife, the other half of The Westies, Heather Horton should record an album of her songs after hearing the excellent Like You Used To Do on their Six On The Out album. Well, here it is only it’s not an album of dusty country hurt. Instead, Horton has another palette she uses here in conjunction with Lex Price who produces, the result a shimmering set of songs, some personal, some somewhat agitating or protesting. Horton addresses issues of disability on one song and in a wider sense proclaims her rights as a female although it would be wrong to describe the album as a feminist diatribe as indicated in some of the publicity material. Probably the most directly feminist statement is on the album artwork which pictures a naked and hi-heeled Horton chained to a supermarket trolley by a pearl necklace, her fiddle and a keg of beer in the trolley, a darkly humorous nod perhaps to how she might be seen by some.

On the album, Horton inhabits several characters. A loving mother, an outraged wife, a kid caught up in romantic dreams and a woman caught up in a doomed relationship. She does this several removes from The Westies, replacing their mean streets bluster for a more intimate feel, Price’s musical textures wrapped around her excellent voice recalling the more baroque moments of some vintage singer/songwriters. The opening Murphy’s Law ripples and pulses like late era Joni Mitchell as Horton describes a woman in thrall to a man who basically wipes his feet on her while Coffee Cup  sweeps along with a grand Laurel Canyon feel as she sings of two opposites trying to find common ground in what is eventually a kitchen sink drama. I Wanna Die In My Sleep finds Horton sounding innocent and childlike (recalling Victoria Williams) but here the message is hopeful and optimistic as she paints an idyllic romance. Meanwhile there’s a very fine pop sensibility on the bouncy Did You Fell That , a song that seems to about a messy sexual encounter.

While there’s a short detour into disability rights on Wheelchair Man, a delicate and daintily delivered delve into the obstacles faced by those bound to wheels instead of legs the flesh of the album seems to be Horton’s relationship with McDermott however obliquely it’s delivered. Save The Rain  is a lullaby of sorts  to their daughter, Rain, while Horton borrows a title from The Westies’ with her Pauper Sky a response of sorts to McDermott’s Springsteen  like tale of urban shenanigans. More directly she confronts a groupie on the sardonic F.U. which is a withering put down delivered with a fine and woozy country shuffle as Horton bares her claws in an excellent fashion. It’s all grist to the mill I suppose as the album signs off with a bit of a joke on the “hidden” final song where Horton and McDermott offer up their take on the ultimate couple song, You’re The One That I Want.  An acoustic scrabble and a fine example of the pair’s chemistry it’s a fine pointer to the fact that the pair are touring the UK over the next few weeks and it’s in this set up we’ll see them. A post modern Sonny & Cher?

Horton & McDermott are currently touring the UK, all dates here and they have their one Scottish appearance at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on Wednesday 27th September.

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