Heather Horak,
Lucky Charm
(self-produced, 2003)

Lucky Charm is one of those albums that tries to be quirky and funny, but just doesn't quite succeed. I wish I could say it's a case of trying too hard, but it's more like a case of trying the wrong thing. The songs have odd introductions to typical subjects (love, mystery, etc.). Instead of inspiring further inquiry, it just makes the song unappealing.

For instance, the food references in the opening song "Poutine" almost turn your stomach. (Greasy French fries, cheese, gravy and beer -- this isn't an appetizing way to start off an album, no matter how many fans this artery-clogging dish may have in French-speaking regions of Canada.) Later on in "Crush Diet," the abundance of food references sorta make sense, but does she have to list the contents of her refrigerator? Heck, even "Lucky Charm" is the name of a breakfast cereal.

I'm still pondering the point of "Elvis." Is it me or has making fun of Elvis become passe? Yeah, there are all kinds of crazy urban myths about the rock 'n' roll legend, especially his eating habits, but aren't these more overdone than eggs at a diner? (Sorry for the food reference, but it fits.) Even so, calling Elvis a "tall greasy rocker" isn't a pop culture reference -- it just seems mean. Another head-scratcher is the song "Substitute," which sounds like it belongs on one of those sing-a-long kids' albums advertised on a cable channel.

The mechanics of Horak's performances are also questionable. She is sometimes off-key, especially in "Crush Diet" and the last stanza of "Substitute." The lyrics are squeezed/shoved into fitting in under-sized meters.

I wish this album had more redeeming qualities to focus on, but the best songs -- "Poem" and "Phantom Man" -- are mediocre at best. If you are looking for quirkiness without any coherence, then you might enjoy Lucky Charm.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 5 June 2004

Heather Horak describes her sound as "swingin' jazz-folk-country-rap-rockabilly-comedy," and I see no reason to disagree with her! She has a deft touch with the balladic storytelling style, too, though all her songs tell a tale -- sometimes poignant, more often than not, amusing -- like "The Elvis Song," "Crush Diet" and "Substitute" (about the cruel gags kids play on the substitute teacher).

My only complaint about Horak's debut CD is that it is too short -- I want to hear more! This musician is quite different from anyone else, a real original; the lyrics are clever and attention-grabbing, like Janis Ian or Thea Gilmore, but not so fiesty and in-your-face as Gilmore, and although there are some thoughtful songs, she is more like Ian in mischeivous mode, but it is difficult to compare her with other artists.

Her energy and enthusiasm comes right through the speakers, and the music fits the silly stories and the soulful songs. This is entertainment for anyone who has eclectic musical taste -- Horak doesn't stay still long enough for you to pin her down to one style, but her songs stay in your mind even when the CD stops playing. From the epic "Elvis Song" to the gentle "My Phantom Man," this girl charms and delights.

When does the next album come out?

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 5 June 2004