The distorted cry of a lap steel guitar slices through the Brooklyn night. A voice sings with aching sweetness and strength. Caressing melodies are barbed with stinging solos. This is the sound of The Last Town Chorus - the revolving ensemble led by singer/writer/lap-steel-guitarist Megan Hickeys. The new album, Wire Waltz, is even deeper, more powerful and more personal than the last and includes the wistful reinvention of David Bowie's 'Modern Love' that was recently featured in an episode of Grey's Anatomy. Wire Waltz is comfort food for wounded souls.
On this second album by Megan Hickey's band, her nine originals are joined by a spare and emotive reworking of David Bowie's "Modern Love." It is built around her breathy but resonant vocals and her lap steel guitar, the minimal accompaniment (drums, bass, violin, guitar) judiciously utilized for an overall sound that feels old but sounds new. Her lap steel playing truly lends this release its most identifiable and idiosyncratic element. Hickey is capable of slashing density (as on "Caroline"), high and lonesome melodicism ("Boat"), and atmospheric sweeps ("Foreign Land"), but often moving from one approach to another within a given song, seamlessly altering or embellishing moods. She has also come up with songs that have a life of their own. One can imagine songs like "Wintering in Brooklyn" and "It's Not Over" being played by others. Self-produced and recorded, Megan Hickey has a fully formed sense of purpose and a willingness to push herself, not only making this album a powerful work, but raising expectations for anything she decides to do next. --David Greenberger