Listen Up: Wednesday, August 13, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Maria McKee

High Dive (Viewfinder Records)

By Matthew Smith

Those who recall Maria McKee only from Lone Justice and ’80s MTV are missing out. After briefly flirting with fame, McKee went solo and, by design or fate, slipped into obscurity. Because of that, High Dive will no doubt slip below the radar, which is a damn shame since, as is often the case, the artist’s best work is happening long after the it-girl moment has passed.

The roots-rock sound of Lone Justice is still evident, but it is now joined by a more mature and, at times, soulful and orchestral sound. And although no one will mistake High Dive for hard rock, McKee is that unclassifiable artist who could easily appeal to all music fans regardless of age or genre preference.

Vocally, she’s been compared to Janis Joplin, and there is that. But she defies handy comparisons, other than to say that she ranks favorably against any of the big names out there. Certainly today’s showboating, chart-topping divas could learn a thing or two about real singing from High Dive.

Musically, this ranks one of the year’s most solid releases, no three-worthies-and-10-fillers disc this. If there’s any complaint, it’s that things are almost too picture-perfectly produced. Still High Dive is pretty and real, never slick or soulless.

Things open with “To the Open Spaces,” a soaring gust of classic AM angelic pop that begs for a convertible and an open road. “My Friend Foe” and “No Gala,” unlikely as it sounds, work brilliantly as show tunes to some yet unwritten musical. The rest is a variety of golden surprise as well.

Again, High Dive will probably sink without a trace. Heads up, though: If you like Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Norah Jones, Chrissie Hynde et al, or just solid rock and pop, this is right up your alley.


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