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Bird Song

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Album Review

Bird Song may be singer/songwriter Heather Masse's first solo album, but she had already made a mark in more than one place before its release, as a member of folk trio the Wailin' Jennys (replacing Annabelle Chvostek after the group's third album) and as the frontwoman for rootsy New York band Heather & the Barbarians. Following a solo EP, Bird Song represents Masse's first major bid to present herself as a full-fledged, name-above-the-title auteur. She wisely puts her best foot forward by keeping the focus on her lush, velvety vocals, capable of melting butter in a Siberian winter. The arrangements, led by the sympathetic accompaniment of keyboardist Jed Wilson and lithe-fingered guitarist Lyle Brewer, are mostly sparse, but when the band takes a moment to stretch out, as on closing cut, "Mittens," things get appreciably brighter. Intentionally or not, Masse seems to be coming up to bat in the next-Norah Jones game that's been so ubiquitous at the female-troubadour end of the music business since the latter's ascendance, and she moves distinctly away from the overt Americana sound of her work with the Barbarians here. Interestingly, the most successful moments on the album are the ones where she either embraces those Americana roots wholeheartedly — the rockabilly train-beat-driven "High-Heeled Woman," the folk-spiritual "Over the Mountain," and the ones where she abandons them entirely, going for an atmospheric effect that owes little to traditional stylistic templates ("Chosen," "Be My Sailor." It's the tracks where she gets caught in between these two approaches that are the least memorable here, coming off as pretty-but-watery versions of a sound you've heard elsewhere many times that was never particularly resonant to begin with. Heading toward the extreme ends of the spectrum would seem to be the best way forward for Masse from here. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Customer Reviews

All I Need

Well, I'm happy now - haven't heard anything this nice in years. I mistakenly believed that it was no longer possible to make a really classic sounding album. I, of course, was wrong -- there was Heather Masse. She was waiting to make her move in the closing months of 2009. If you don't believe me then you need to buy this disc, the EP Many Moons and The Wailin' Jennys' Live album. Also, go and listen to the recent Prairie Home Companion that includes Heather singing, "In My Life" -- (ignore that guy singing with her and you hear what I am talking about!). Heather's is the nicest female voice that I have heard in years and her songwriting chops have just come of age! Now go and buy this album (if you haven't already)!


Was prepared to like this, since I love the Wailin Jennys, but I found a sameness to most of the songs, to the point of boredom and depression. Last couple of songs had promise, but before then I was ready to give up. Morose, self-absorbed, whiny. Song after song after song after song.


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '10s

Although trained at the New England Conservatory of Music as a jazz singer, New York singer/songwriter Heather Masse is equally versed in a variety of American song traditions, which influences her more prevalent work in folk, pop, and bluegrass. She has performed at venues all over the world. Masse, who grew up in rural Maine, is perhaps best known as a member of the charting folk group the Wailin' Jennys. As a performer, she is a noted soloist as well as a collaborator. She has been a frequent...
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Bird Song, Heather Masse
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