Published May 13, 2014In a sea of pretty female singer-songwriter voices, Melissa Payne's stands out: part velvet, part gravel and bursting at the seams. But beyond the quality of her voice, Payne's approach to lead singing is coloured by plenty of experience as a supporting musician, playing second fiddle (literally) to Dylan Ireland in Peterborough duo/band Express and Company.
Payne delivers a solid collection of heartbreak songs without over-singing a single one of them. Her second solo album, High and Dry, is beautifully arranged and performed by a who's who cast of musicians, including Michael Boguski (Blue Rodeo) on piano and organ, Anna Ruddick (Ladies of the Canyon) on bass, Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck) on synth and Dylan Ireland on guitar and drums. Produced by Greg Keelor, the record recalls what's best about the genre so epitomized by Blue Rodeo — gentle, sincere, road trip-ready Canadiana. Title track "High and Dry" is the energetic standout single, but the slower songs ("Not The Only One," "Cool West Wind," "Cold Out There") provide just as much punch, thanks to great musicianship.
The album takes one strange turn, with the somewhat jarring intro to "Kitchen Walls," an otherwise good song, and the only one to feature Payne's fiddle playing. Otherwise, this album is right on the mark. And if the excellent "Bring Me Back" isn't featured prominently in some TV or movie soundtrack, there is no justice in this world. (Seventh Fire)