Rae Billing Blue Black Night

We should be grateful that Rae Billing got the seven-year itch. It has been that long between albums for the now Hamilton, ON-based songstress, a major talent long seriously undervalued. She first made a mark leading ’90s Toronto country rockers Crybaby, and Blue Black Night shows no decline in her formidable skills. Billing’s voice is both strong and oft shiver-inducing, while her penchant for writing emotionally eloquent and haunting material is nicely showcased here. In fact, the only non-original, a cover of Depeche Mode’s "Personal Jesus,” is the weakest cut. You can also judge this artist by the company she keeps: producer Peter Moore (Cowboy Junkies), legendary Band keyboardist Garth Hudson and a core band featuring Steve Koch (Handsome Ned, the Demics), bassist Derrick Brady (Hawksley Workman), former Blue Rodeo drummer Cleave Anderson and keyboardist Matt Horner. The interaction of Koch’s silvery guitar lines and Horner’s B3 playing frames the vocals very effectively on tunes like "No Closer” and "Waiting To Fall,” while male backing vocals also add depth. Superb stuff. (Hug/OPM)