Published Mar 13, 2015Is Colleen Brown too stylistically diverse for her own good? That may be one reason why this extremely talented Edmonton-based singer/songwriter has remained rather under the radar. As demonstrated on three earlier solo albums, she is the rare vocalist that impresses equally on vibrant soul and quiet folk. Despite the album's title, Direction is also highly varied, something partly attributable to the fact it was recorded separately in four different locales (some songs appeared last year on her EP Direction 1: Major Love). Three cuts apiece were recorded in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (with Joel Plaskett at the console) and L.A. (with Raymond Richards), two in Toronto (with Taylor Kernohan), and one was self-produced in Edmonton. All three Plaskett-assisted songs (he plays all over them, too) are winners: "Soap and Denim" is the kind of spirited rocker he does so well, as is the rousing "Randy Newman" (inspired by Brown opening for the pop auteur at the 2012 Interstellar Rodeo festival).
Horns and strings are used mostly judiciously on different tracks, though the production on the powerful ballad "Don't Forget About Me (When You Know Who You Are)" is a mite over the top. Early Joni Mitchell remains the most obvious reference point for Brown's more folk-accented material, both vocally and lyrically, as on piano ballad "Direction" and "I Asked In The Night." Like Mitchell, Brown makes poetic use of different locales, from Moncton ("Moncton Flight 179") to Colorado ("Come To Colorado"). Brown reportedly wrote and recorded the killer closing song, "I Asked In The Night," in one late-night attic session. The success of this sparse and haunting song will hopefully instil confidence for a DIY approach next time around. A narrower stylistic focus is also recommended, but for now travelling in Brown's Direction is one very pleasing trek. (Independent)