Saturday, January 14, 2012

Missy Burgess – Play Me Sweet

Play Me Sweet
Missy Burgess

I heard Ottawa-based singer and songwriter Missy Burgess for the first time about four years ago when she slipped me a copy of Lemon Pie, her second album. I liked it a lot gave it a nice – albeit brief – review in the Montreal Gazette.

As someone who turned to performing, and, particularly to recording as a fairly mature artist, you can hear the weight of experience Missy brings to her strong original material and to the interpretive voice she brings to standards and the gems from other writers she chooses to cover. Although her voice sounds like neither, she reminds me of Penny Lang and Rosalie Sorrels in that regard.

As good as Lemon Pie was, Play Me Sweet is a big step forward for Missy and I suspect producer-guitarist Keith Glass – of Prairie Oyster – has a lot to do with it. His superb musicianship is all over the CD, he co-wrote four of the songs with Missy, and contributed another two songs of his own. In addition to the co-writes with Keith – one of which Chris White also had a hand in – Missy also wrote two of the tracks herself and there are three more excellent covers.

At the top of my list of favourite tracks is Missy’s “Don’t Go to Cincinnati,” sung from the perspective of a woman whose man divides his time with her and with another woman in Cincinnati. The minor key arrangement is reminiscent of Brechtian cabaret songs filtered through Tom Waits. Speaking of Waits, Missy’s world-weary version of his “Time,” is one of the best interpretations of that great song I’ve heard.

Other favourites include Keith’s “Sundown Blues,” a classic country break-up song; Missy and Keith’s “Play Me Sweet,” whose portrait of a sad man on a train builds slowly and poetically over three verses; and a sweet version of “Smile,” the inspiring buck-up standard composed by silent film star Charlie Chaplin.

Although I’ve just mentioned a few of the songs, the quality of the material, Missy’s singing, and Keith’s spot-on arrangements, turn each of the 11 songs on Play Me Sweet to gold.

--Mike Regenstreif

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