Monica Queen Return Of The Sacred Heart Review

Released 2005.  

BBC Review

With a range and tone very similar to Emmylou Harris, Monica Queen's voice is simply...

Cormac Heron 2005

When someone is hailed as the new Emmylou Harris, eyebrows of suspicion usually get to work. And rightly so. Imagine the joy then when Monica Queen's Return Of The Sacred Heart not only sounds like Emmylou but the whole package sounds like Harris' flawless Wrecking Ball.

Queen arguably got her first real break when asked by Belle And Sebastian's Stuart to help him out on a track he was having a little difficulty with. The outcome was "Lazy Line Painter Jane" and things seem to be getting better and better for the Scotland born performer. Grant Lee Buffalo, The Jayhawks and Shane MacGowan have all invited her onstage.

This is Monica Queen's follow-up to her highly acclaimed solo debut Ten Sorrowful Mysteries. The album opens with a beautiful short number entitled "Fly Away" featuring Jim White who Queen supported on his last tour of the UK. The sparse production on "Fly Away" sets the tone for this semi-religious collection of soulful country songs.

With a range and tone very similar to Emmylou Harris, Monica Queen's voice is simply beautifully angelic. Stick that on top of this fantastic and often understated production and the results are quite compelling. The man behind the production is Johnny Smillie - who kicked around with Queen in Thrum, their previous band - as well as providing the aural backdrop to Ten Sorrowful Mysteries. If Monica Queen is comparative to Harris then it would be fair to say that Smillie's production skills are akin to those of Daniel Lanois. Quite a team, really; the goods almost always delight.

This is a comforting album full of surprises. The title track is masterful and sublime, and "Beautiful Song" is exactly what it says on the tin. Along with Smillie's technical wizardry, most songs sport acoustic guitar and "To Accept The Things I Cannot Change" is a particularly fine example. When the electric and drums kick off "I Still Wait In The Shadows", it feels like an entire family has just entered your living room, chatting away and making cups of tea.

"Deja Vu" uses only synths as accompaniment, with Queen's lower range being used to greater effect.In fact, therein lies what is ostensibly the only criticism of this disc -that she does not explore this area of her vocals enough.Not much of a criticism, really, when her voice issoimpressive throughout.

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