'Ghost Town' by Melissa Plett: earnest Americana rock
Melissa Plett

What do you call music that is rooted in country, but isn't exactly country? Americana is generally a term used for such music. But what if the artist is Canadian? Melissa Plett is a Canadian singer-songwriter who does a pretty good job producing Americana rock on her new album Ghost Town.

A lot of drinking songs can be sad and slow. This album includes a drinking song that may be sad, but it's not slow. "In Handle of Whisky" Plett sings about having a bottle that is going to help her wash way the thoughts she's having. The theme is kind of heavy, but the melody is lively. The honky-tonk piano in particular boosts the energy of the melody. 

There is a longstanding tradition of murder ballads in country and Americana music. Generally the murder in these songs takes place because someone cheated. Plett includes a murder ballad on this album, but it comes from a very different place. "Trigger" begins with the narrator talking about being pushed against a wall and breaking her teeth. Then she goes on to sing about holding a gun against someone and saying "this ends tonight". She toughens her voice from its usually sweet tone and does a tremendous job of conveying the vengeful feel of the narrator. While a lot of murder ballads are muted, the melody of this one includes a pretty strong rock element - especially in the guitar. 

Plett works a little bit of the Bakersfield sound into the album on "Sideways." The pedal steel on this song is subtle, but it definitely lends some Bakersfield sound. Meanwhile, the organ is reminiscent of Lucero.

Plett shows real talent as both a singer and a songwriter. Her voice is clear and sweet and is perfect for the Americana-rock melodies on this album. If you like strong female vocalists, this would be a welcome addition to your collection. Ghost Town will be available on Sept. 1.