Heather Maloney, CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA, Wednesday, March 25, 2015.
By Charles Rain Black
There are venues in Cedar Rapids that present well-known performers. There are also places that offer the best of local musicians. Then there is CSPS Hall. On a regular basis, CSPS Hall, owned and operated by non-profit organization Legionarts, introduces Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa to heretofore unknown or little known gems. Heather Maloney is just such a “diamond in the rough”, at least as far as performing in Iowa is concerned.
Wednesday night, March 15th was Heather's debut in Cedar Rapids as well as in Iowa. It really was a total debut, as she had never even been in the state before. She is in the midst of a “pre-release” tour promoting her upcoming album, "Making Me Break", coming out on April 28th. As a result, she performed a number of songs live for the first, or nearly first time. So, it was an evening of many firsts, for Heather, for Cedar Rapids, for Iowa and for the audience members.
Heather is charming on stage. Whether telling back stories about her songs, or her life, or singing, she has a way of instantly making you want to be her friend. Sometimes folk singers, by nature wrapped up in a world of contemplation and introspection, can seem a bit distant when performing. That's not the case with Heather. She's almost a bit awkward in her openness, telling jokes about her life (especially about being the child of a psychotherapist) that some people might not want to share if it were them. That openness is the sign of a solid, talented folk song writer. The best songs of that genre come from those who aren't afraid to let others into their lives. The aspect of this I loved about Heather's concert was she makes that journey into her life so appealing and enjoyable.
My favorites of the evening were “Flutter”, one of her classics; “1855” (about a couple who had only a single photograph taken during their lives) and her cover of Joni Mitchell's “Woodstock” which drew shouts of appreciation from the audience even before the song ended. Heather's vocal style is hard to narrow down: it's obvious she's been influenced by Joni Mitchell, yet she has a bit of the endearing childlikeness of Pieta Brown. There's a hint of Alanis Morrisette and even Sheryl Crow in there as well. Heather is not trying to copy any of these singers. I think it's just her way of presenting songs based on various influences and how she naturally sounds. Occasionally she ends a phrase on an unexpected note that falls outside the standard triad of the chord she's playing. It's different, and I really liked it.
So did the audience. Heather had scarcely removed her guitar after the last song before people were hollering for more. She did not disappoint, and won a new group of fans both with her music and her personality. Her next tour will be with a trio she has put together: a group she describes as “very sensitive” and very talented multi-instrumentalists. Heather said she would love to return with the trio, and I for one look forward to that show. Heather Maloney is definitely a talent to keep track of.