Missy Higgins is a major star in her native Australia, but after her first two albums failed to live up to commercial expectations in the United States, she took a few years off from music, parted ways with Warner Bros., and is releasing her third full-length project, The Ol' Razzle Dazzle, in the United States through the independent Vagrant ...
Missy Higgins is a major star in her native Australia, but after her first two albums failed to live up to commercial expectations in the United States, she took a few years off from music, parted ways with Warner Bros., and is releasing her third full-length project, The Ol' Razzle Dazzle, in the United States through the independent Vagrant Records imprint. The Ol' Razzle Dazzle was co-produced by Brad Jones and Butterfly Boucher, the latter something of a kindred spirit, a fellow Aussie singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has had her own issues with the major-label system. Together, Higgins, Jones, and Boucher have made an album that's inviting and tuneful, but also personal and down to earth, and hardly the sort of record that a major label would release in the year 2012. The fact that Boucher has played in Sarah McLachlan's road band is a happy coincidence, since this is just the sort of record that would have landed Higgins a slot in the Lilith Fair lineup back in the 1990s (and she did play a few dates on the ill-fated Lilith Fair re-launch in 2010). The Ol' Razzle Dazzle sounds and feels organic; Higgins' vocals are heartfelt and rich, but her style is that of a regular gal who isn't afraid to let her Australian accent show and doesn't have much use for acrobatic phrasing, and while these songs don't spend much time dwelling on her angst, Higgins' troubles with love and life certainly take the center stage on tunes like "Unashamed Desire," "All in My Head," and "Tricks." In many ways, the solid, careful craft of these recordings, the unobtrusive production, and the very natural interplay between the musicians (with Higgins, Boucher, and Jones handling most of the instruments themselves) recall the singer/songwriter era of the 1970s. While Higgins used to be compared to Vanessa Carlton on a near daily basis, this material sounds more mature and less poppy than her first two albums, though "Temporary Love" and "Set Me on Fire" show she hasn't lost her knack for a radio-ready melodic hook. The Ol' Razzle Dazzle isn't a radical break from Higgins' previous work, but it does represent a welcome, grown-up simplicity that serves her well; despite the title, the lack of empty razzle-dazzle is one of the things that make Higgins' first album in five years something worth hearing. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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