The boot stomping rhythm of “Heavy Train” opens the latest album from Nokomis, Saskatchewan’s own Little Miss Higgins, and sets the mood for the rest of this farm house sing-along with Higgins joined by the boys from The Winnipeg Five (aka The F-Holes) as her handsome backing band. Put on your finest duds and get ready for a night out on the town with this collection of country swing, elegantly understated blues and jazz, and a touch of honkey-tonk thrown in for good measure.
Higgins mixes things up right from the start, as the opener’s thick call and response chorus builds into the sultry refrains of “Your House Tonight”, a lustful tale nicely complemented by back-and-forth guitar melodies and an impassioned trumpet solo bringing it all home. From there, she has no problem slapping a smile on the listener’s face with “Keep A Song In Your Soul” and “Chateau Poulet”, with the latter’s lyrics highlighting that thread of Francophonism that still runs strong through the prairies.
With tracking for the Bison Ranch Recording Sessions actually completed in a barn on a bison ranch in Manitoba, the live off-the-floor feel really shines through in the enthusiasm the players show throughout the record. Rather than dead-sounding vocals, you can hear their smiles peeking out from those high harmonies, along with genuine crackling fires and cawing crows as well.
The classic country feel is laid down thick on the pedal-steel enriched “Barns You Used To Dance In”, as its slow waltz beat allows a bit more breathing room for Higgins’ beautifully rich voice to shine through. The farm party continues gathered around the wood-stove for “Early Morning Thief”, then heads back out into the field for “Dead Cow Hill” before traveling down the road for “I Was At An Auction”, with one of the most truthfully resonating lyrics I’ve heard in a while; “Need or want/Didn’t matter much/`Cause I was at an auction.”
Sure, you might call this album old-timey, but it shouldn’t be perceived as a criticism, since it’s neither dated nor derivative. Everything about this album is as pleasantly charming as Higgins herself, and feels just as comfortable as your favourite pair of cowboy boots. Served best on a shady porch with a good country view and a nice glass of straight bourbon.