Talented trio of John, Eileen and Kathleen Higgins offer a pleasing array of new material on Dreamers Like Us, released June 8, 2010 on Open Road Recordings. The Higgins have teamed up with some very skilled writers on this album, including Liz Rose, who wrote “White Horse” by Taylor Swift, and cowrote Swift’s cleverly-phrased fan favorite, “You Belong With Me.” The Higgins also do some writing with fellow Canadians Deric Ruttan, a great songwriter, and Steven Lee Olsen, whose catchy new single “Make Hay While the Sun Shines” is enjoying good airplay on Canadian country radio.
Paul Shatto and Kathleen Higgins do a fairly nice job of production, favoring toward an easy listening sound on many of the songs that is much in line with most of today’s country music. They manage stay away from being overtly heavy-handed in production choices on most tracks. The background answering machine-style echo on “Carry Me Away.” (“talkin’!”) crosses the line slightly into silliness – but then again having fun doesn’t downplay the band’s talent, and Steven Lee Olsen, who cowrote “Carry Me Away,” certainly knows how to write a hit. Dreamers Like Us does fall short on adolescent “Shania Twain meets Taylor Swift” angry chick songs like “All Cried Out” and “Burn You Back.” Still it manages to retain its appeal through the fun atmosphere of the album and vocal harmonies for which the group is well-known.
The decision to keep the album short, at eight tracks, seems a good one, particularly given the recent success of the six pak format used on Blake Shelton’s latest album, short albums seem to be the wave of the future. It also helps that the cohesive harmonies and skill of the band show through in most songs.
“Yours,” written by Pam Rose, Liz Rose and Kathleen Higgins, is the standout, highlight track of the album. It reaches the level of Miranda Lambert, with a compelling delivery sure to catch some notice. It is made all the more interesting with the addition of John’s well-blended background vocals and tightly-woven production.
In terms of influences Dreamers Like Us is interesting to look into. Dixie Chicks influences definitely show strong on catchy and single-worthy tunes like “Carry Me Away,” and “I Ride Alone.” Although the team ethos of the band is clearly an important part of their appeal and outlook, Kathleen Higgins in particular emerges as the songwriter par excellence of the group, with credits on seven of the eight tracks, and her Lambert-esque vocals are inspiring as well. The ideas of most of the songs are northing particularly new lyrically, although they bring a natural, personal-reflection, storytelling ease that is sometimes lacking in hook-heavy contemporary country music.
The band does slow tempo melancholy pieces well. “Where Does the Time Go,” is an idea done to melancholy effect by Charlie Major back in the 1990s in a similar way. However, here the lilting female vocals bring the idea a more reassuring lullaby-like quality that seems ultimately more redemptive than the tune by Major. As Amy Blizzard noted insightfully in her review of Dreamers Like Us, the album also channels a sound reminiscent of pop-rock group Sixpence None the Richer, whose hit “Kiss Me” brought the band into the spotlight of the American pop music scene in 1998.
With “Dreamers Like Us” as the first single, this album is sure to live up to the expectations of the Higgins’ fans and offers more of what’s made the trio so well-liked from the start. Made memorable by the lilting harmonies of such beautiful songs as “Yours,” Dreamers Like Us is the kind of dream you want to be in.