Album Review - Heather Nova's <i>South</i>

Everybody else has taken a crack at this, so why not me?

In preparation for a vacation I am taking in a few weeks, I've been searching through my roommate's extensive CD collection for new tracks for some new mix CDs to tide me over for the long drive. One album I stumbled across was Heather Nova's most recent album, South.

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I remembered her from 1995's "Walk this World", and remembered that I enjoyed her song, without being particularly amazed at the time (a very nice voice, nice songs, but none of them really being 'must listen' tracks). So I was quite pleasantly surprised when I took a walk through her latest musical world.

The first track, "Welcome", starts out hitting you with a wave of sound, rolling through acoustic & electric guitar, and most importantly, luscious and rich bass. The song is catchy, poppy, with soaring vocals and a driving rhythm. Excellent!

"Heaven Sent" picks up the wall of sound where "Welcome" leaves off, but unfortunately, the rest of the album mostly diverges from this sweet opening sound. "I'm no Angel" is a nice pop song where she shows off the upper part of her vocal range, "Virus of the Mind", despite the silly lyrics and concept, is fun, jaunty, and you can bop your head to it as a spoken-narrative over bouncy guitar.

The real gem on the album is Heather's cover of "Gloomy Sunday", which opens up with upright string bass (I can't identify the instrument), and gives her the opportunity to really show off her vocal range, soaring high and swooping low, in a melancholy song about the sorrow of the one left behind after her lover's death, mulling over plans to join her dearly departed. The song seems like the narrator is trying to convince herself as much as the listener that she'll be glad to shuffle off this mortal coil to assauge her pain; I'm not sure at the end of the song whether the narrator has truly decided to go through with the plans made in shadow and heartache, or is rather indulging her dark side while grieving.

Another bass-rich song is the final track, "Just Been Born", which just oozes sensuality as she lays down a slow, rolling groove while belting out some fairly suggestive lyrics. The song builds up to a climax of pounding bass & guitar, until it finally releases into a sort of audio afterglow, ending the CD. Even though I don't smoke, I felt the need to light a cigarette afterwards.

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Help me be good to you

Even though I found many of the remaining tracks to be somewhat dull, the songs above stand out and shine, and as a whole the album is very listenable and easy on the ears, which is more than you can say for most of the new stuff out there these days. Definitely a thumbs up, even if just for the opener.

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Nice review, Brian. I've

Nice review, Brian. I've never understood why she's not more popular than she is. Great voice, good songwriting, decent guitar player, and beautiful, to boot. Anyway, my understanding of the "Gloomy Sunday" lyrics is the last few lines reveal it was just a dream, and her lover's still alive.