HEATHER LYNNE HORTON – Don’t Mess With Mrs. Murphy (At The Helm)

Mrs. MurphyOne half of The Westies alongside husband Michael McDermott, like him Horton also has a solo career, one which, aided and abetted by multi-instrumentalist Lex Price, she resumes here with her strongly feminist fuelled second album about women addressing the struggle of reconciling their multiple roles with the search for personal happiness which, she notes, frequently gets “placed on back burners and crammed into closets”.

A caution about falling in love with the wrong person, the breathily sung ‘Murphy’s Law’ opens the album with a dreamy, ripplingly hypnotic rhythm, the musical mood getting a little more spooked with ‘Wheelchair Man’, a disability rights song inspired by the disempowered and disenfranchised of Chicago on which she sings “I cannot stand ladders I will never get to climb corporate or just to pass the time/dreaming days to forge a golden gate/bridges only birds can navigate.”

‘Did You Feel That’ picks up the tempo for a poppier shuffle complete with a soaring radio friendly chorus only to take things back down again with the minimal, multi-tracked vocals of an almost hymnal ‘Save The Rain’, a song about her protecting daughter (Willie aka Rain) from the dangers of the world.

A Velvetsish slow walking bassline (and accompanying talk-sing musical sensibility) underpins the narcotic ‘Boomerang’, a song about her estranged adoptive father and the things you do coming back to bite you, while, addressing facing up to collective responsibility, the languorous country of ‘Flesh and Blood’ is another of the sparser mood moments.

If you’re wondering why the album’s not really mirrored the confrontational nature of the title, then welcome to ‘F.U.’, an amusing song on which, opening with the line ‘Jolene ain’t got nothing on you’, was inspired by a stalker who tried to steal her husband (”I find you backstage in stilettos and stockings and you pretend that it was me, that you came for. I give you a hug cuz I feel sorry for you/and you try to bite me/but I’m made of nickel”), but, coloured by some twangsome guitar, delivers its middle finger in a quietly warning way rather than snarling into your face.

The romantic six minute ‘Coffee Cup’ is another dreamily tranquil number, written as a response to ‘Say It’ by The Westies, it’s followed the reflective ‘Pauper Sky’, here in the original form of the song that (with an extra ‘s) appeared on the band’s last album.

It ends with the unhurried seven-minute mostly spoken narrative ‘I Wanna Die in My Sleep’, essentially a moving pledge of unconditional love and devotion to her husband accompanied by acoustic guitar and a touch of organ. It’s only right then to have a hidden bonus track, the two of them teaming up for a ramshackle acoustic cover of ‘You’re The One That I Want’. You might not want to mess with Mrs. Murphy, but you really should get to know Ms. Horton a lot better.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.heatherhortonmusic.com

‘Save The Rain’ – live podcast: