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Mia Sheard | Reptilian (Perimeter Entertainment Group)
Apart from the odd collaborative track here and there, an EP and the score to 'Apartment Hunting', it has been a very long time since we heard from Mary Margaret O'Hara. It was in 1988 that the staggering 'Miss America' stunned the world. Since then, almost diddly-squat. The wait will continue, but in the meantime, I would heartily recommend that your attention turn to Mia Sheard's 'Reptilian'. Like O'Hara, Sheard hails from Toronto, and trades in bruised and emotional, inventive (mainly) acoustic melodrama in a huge voice. With a sparkling Michael Phillip Wojewoda production that borrows heavily from Daniel Lanois' book of tricks, Sheard has room to explore her range of vocal expression over dramatic arrangements that brim with tension and subtlety. Cover Girl kicks things off, where the male of our species gets a good slapping right from the first line ?? "All men want the same things / spend their savings on their cravings / hope their phone rings telling them they've won the world." Unfortunately, I'm in no position to disagree. The following Comic is interesting, focusing on those willingly ignorant to great art - in this instance, Picasso. The dense poetry of The Tortoise And The Heiress is a wonder indeed, Sheard's powerful voice aflight, not letting up for a second of the equally marvellous Viaduct, which follows. The sole cover is of compatriot Luke Doucet's Veal's atmospheric road-trip morality tale Mexico Texaco, and Sheard's sensitive reading ensures that she now claims the song as her own. Closing with mighty epics The Solo Flight and Call Me ?? both recalling the more progressive work of Jane Siberry ?? there are only really three aberrations to mention of 'Reptilian'. Girly Man is plain messy and clumsy, Stubborn Bastard a mite musically bombastic (despite the wonderfully understated lyrical vitriol), and the hidden cod-reggae-rock track at album's end really should have been left wherever it originally was. That said, this is only Sheard's second release, and if the world really needs a surrogate Mary Margaret O'Hara, then there is no woman better equipped or talented to fill that role.

Tom Sheriff
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002