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Heather Waters - JPop.com
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Heather Waters

Heather Waters

Heather Waters


Ask Heather Waters what inspired the songs on her new record, propeller, and she’ll offer a genial wisecrack: “Love & murder, baby.” But it’s no joke that she is fascinated by the magic – and the minefields - of the human heart. At a time when pop music is ruled by dance divas who phone in their vocal performances, Waters is a bracing anomaly: an artist whose singing is a visceral, deeply soulful experience — for her as well as audiences. Read more on Last.fm
Ask Heather Waters what inspired the songs on her new record, propeller, and she’ll offer a genial wisecrack: “Love & murder, baby.” But it’s no joke that she is fascinated by the magic – and the minefields - of the human heart. At a time when pop music is ruled by dance divas who phone in their vocal performances, Waters is a bracing anomaly: an artist whose singing is a visceral, deeply soulful experience — for her as well as audiences. Waters can belt and growl with abandon, but she truly proves her mettle with sorrowful, melodically spacious ballads that give her burning alto room to set off the trip wires of the heart. In another era, she might have been heralded as a torch singer with the phrasing of Billie Holiday or Peggy Lee and explosive passion akin to Edith Piaf. The conviction of Waters’ performances overcomes even jaded scenesters; when she opens her mouth to sing, people turn to listen as reflexively as they step into the sun for warmth. Once she adjusts her vintage microphone, she seemingly transports herself to some other place in time as she sings the blazes out of heartbreak ballads, a cappella gospel chestnuts and bluesy confessionals burning with candid need and longing.

With her eyes closed and hands hovering around her mic, the effect is one of a prayerful supplicant in communion with her muse. Offstage, all that musical transcendence gets blasted by Waters’ irreverent humor. The woman can be gleefully, wickedly funny... just ask her to share some of her stories about making the rounds of South Side blues clubs when she was first starting out. After a tough childhood in the Chicago area, she transplanted herself to Boston’s storied singer-songwriter community and then Nashville, where roadhouse rocker Delbert McClinton and his wife became substitute family.

She opened countless shows for the veteran bluesman and sang harmony alongside the likes of Emmylou Harris on McClinton’s Grammy-nominated album, “Room to Breathe." After two years in Nashville, true love called her — to Los Angeles. Out on the Left Coast, she and devoted new hubby, Craig Macintyre, met Sheldon Gomberg who went on to produce Waters’ sublime 2004 record shadow of you, a subtly faceted jewel of an album that elicited rave reviews from deejays, magazines and newspapers nationwide, and established Waters as one of the most notable singers in LA’s roots community. Although “shadow of you” garnered plenty of accolades and drew favorable comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Kelly Willis, when she went back into studio to record propeller, Waters didn’t want to make “shadow"- the sequel. “I don't want to be restricted by genre, or at least, people's perceptions of what genre is,” Waters states, adding, “I live in Los Angeles.

I'm married to a rock drummer. We own a pit bull named Rosebud. I don't drive a truck and I haven't ridden a horse or lived on a farm in ages. I might say "howdy," but there's more to me than that and I think the music should reflect that.” propeller is a dramatic and dynamic leap forward and the new sound comes as a direct result of Waters taking more control over her music.

While casting around for a producer who shared her vision, her pal and session man extraordinaire Greg Leisz told her, “Heather, you can do this. You have everything you need to make this record. You don't need a producer." That compliment gave her the courage to take over the controls and move in a different direction. Recorded in Los Angeles, propeller is a vibrant musical and lyrical landscape; it’s as rich as it is rocking… as torchy as it is rootsy.

The new songs are also less romantically confessional. Waters says, “the last thing I want is to sabotage my relationship to get -or try to get- a good heartbreak song." Instead she turned into a songwriting “peeping Tom,” crafting other people’s experiences into songs. The CD opens with “Diane,” a Delphic murder ballad swathed in eerie New England imagery and haunting Hammond B3 swells. On “Wait for Me,” the record’s first single, Michael Chaves’ edgy guitar and the driving bass and drum groove of rhythm section powerhouses Sean Hurley and Craig Macintyre surges with a palpable urgency. Written after visiting her terminally ill grandmother, “Wait for Me” is probably the most personal song on propeller and the one nearest to Waters’ heart.

Upon hearing it, Foo Fighter Rami Jaffee exclaimed, “Awhhh, next time, “Wait for Me!” That song is incredible! Rock it, beeeeatch!” Waters’ soulful roots are evident in the greasy gospel treatment she gave to Sean Staples’ “Joy Comes Back to Me” and on “Stone & Concrete,” a pensive tale of betrayal set against a backdrop of the Hollywood sign, Beach Boy harmonies and Peter Adams’ (Michael Penn) achingly beautiful piano. While the new material hums with deeper R&B grooves, there are several richly romantic heartbreakers for which she is known. Fans of Willie Nelson’s Teatro will fall in love with “Six Ways to Sunday,” a bittersweet lullaby that mingles Latin flavored guitar with punch drunk Wurli. The disc closes with “Castaway,” a passionate Motown-esque narrative inspired by a friend’s unplanned pregnancy and bitter divorce. Waters, who admires adventurous artists like Jeff Tweedy has drawn up a new musical roadmap, although she admits, with a laugh, “I don’t know if I am going to look at it much.

I’d rather just follow the belly.” One thing is for sure, however, Waters will be hitting the road starting to share her new music across Americana and America. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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