Heidi Feek: The Only

Written by October 8th, 2013 at 10:27 am

Heidi Feek
Heidi Feek
The Only
(Western Pin-Up)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s easy to peg Nashville’s Heidi Feek as a combination of Patsy Cline’s velvety, sophisticated croon with Chris Isaak’s reverb laden Orbison/Elvis country pop. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or unique, even if k.d. lang was tilling similar musical soil twenty five years ago. The daughter of Joey + Rory takes a different if slightly related approach than her parents’ more traditional folk/C&W on her debut full length. Feek’s style, like lang’s is only tangentially related to country. Rather she works a deeper, dusky somewhat cabaret groove with strains of blues and jazz that’s as pure and sumptuous as her honeyed vocals.

There is also a simmering sensuality to these performances that never feels forced or insincere. As co-producer, that’s surely what she was aiming for as she navigates the tightrope of suggestive and soulful. These songs—all but one written or co-composed by the singer– nail the sweet spot perched between retro and clean yet never antiseptic, 70s West Coast pop. At times like on the Rhiannon beat of “Pretty Boy,” there is a vague hint of Rumours era Fleetwood Mac especially since there is a slight Christine McVie catch in Feek’s delivery.

But it’s really Cline whose spirit is most felt throughout, especially on the countrypolitan/pop of “There Lives a Fool” and the slow blues ballad title track. Lyrically we’re predominantly stuck in lost love town where the ghosts of old flames gone sour haunt the singer. Certainly that’s the case on the achingly sad closing take of “Heartbreak Hotel,” the disc’s only cover and one that mines all its loneliness in a creeping version with eerie pounding drums, organ and a tortured guitar solo that makes most previous readings, yeah even Elvis’, seem rushed in comparison. Anyone who doesn’t melt while listening to Feek describe her delicious dream come true experience with tom toms thumping to emphasize the vibe on “One Night With You” doesn’t have their heart wired correctly.

If there was any justice, the opening “I Like the Way” would be a hit single blasting out of country radio stations. Its instantly memorable chorus, reverb on 10 guitar and Feek’s husky voice proclaiming “I like the way you don’t talk too much/say it all with just a single touch” jumps out of the speakers announcing that you are in the presence of an mesmerizing new artist. Feek draws heavily from other influences but her terrific songs, atmospheric sound and truly unique voice make her an exceptional and compelling contemporary talent.

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