Michelle Rumball Terrain

Singer-songwriter Michelle Rumball is nothing if not eclectic in her tastes and talents. Gaining a sturdy roots credibility with Toronto's Grievous Angels, she up and left for the sights, sounds and smells of New Orleans, drinking in the culture that melds jazz and gospel to R&B and Cajun. Her return to Toronto two years later came with a better sense of self and a dedication and determination to celebrate music of her own making. Terrain is a sparsely accompanied collection of mostly original songs recorded live in the appropriately haunting environment of a church. Appropriate in that this largely introspective work straddles what is largely a folk music, which concentrates on her similarly haunting vocals that approximate a range from Judy Collins to, at times, Norma Waterson. Far from upbeat, this seems an exorcism of sorts, and a gloomy countenance pervades despite inventive covers of songs by Ron Sexsmith, Link Wray and collaborations with Pat Temple and Dave Rave. The buoyant "Delia," however, is the notable exception, elevated by the accordion of fellow collaborator Kevin Quain. The charming "Wind Hymn" benefits from the delicate vocal interplay between Rumball and Dave Rave, which offsets the darkness nicely. (Independent)