Norma Macdonald The Forest For The Trees

Like the voice of a long-forgotten friend, Cape Bretoner Norma Macdonald has released a timeless CD that reaffirms the East coast as Canada's premiere breeding ground for red-hot musical talent. With a voice that can recall (early) Natalie Merchant, it remains distinctively hers. With a side of old-school country twang born of absorbing her father's music collection, she's equal parts hurt and hopeful, and thoroughly current. Originally the lead singer with Halifax's Highland Heights, then releasing her first solo release in '05, Macdonald emerges from this painstakingly constructed production as a free-flying artist rippling with confidence. Like Merchant, Macdonald has found her Peter Buck (10,000 Maniacs) in like-minded guitarist/banjoist/co-producer Charles Austin (Superfriendz, Buck 65, Matt Mays), who, together with a superlative ensemble of players (bassist Adam Fine, guitarist/pedal steel player Dale Murray) has helped craft full-bodied compositions that complement Macdonald's every move. Austin's upbeat banjo and Murray's weeping pedal steel help contemporize each track, augmenting Macdonald's sumptuous vocals with parallel textures and overall focus. From intoxicating opener "A Little Longer" to the thoroughly addictive "Long Shot," Macdonald's second release is nothing short of delicious. (Independent)