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Becca Biggs’s ‘Genie’ is a thoughtful triumph

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Maine-based singer, songwriter and musician Becca Biggs had just released her wonderful debut solo record “Genie” and was set to showcase her new songs during a high-profile set at Belfast’s All Roads Music Festival last month when a last-minute Covid diagnosis knocked her and her band from the lineup.

As it turned out, Biggs was one of two or three acts that had to drop out of that show for the same reason. Looking at the big picture days later, Biggs knows there will be more shows down the road, and she still has a killer record to share.

Each of the 10 songs on “Genie” represents a significant point in Biggs’s life from youth to today. Blending elements of country, indie folk, pop, and alternative and classic rock, the album finds her working her way through a variety of settings and circumstances with songs both muscular and meaningful.

“Genie” opens with the title track and plaintive notes pulled from Biggs’s banjo as she sings of loss.

“This time the bottle drowned the genie,” she sings. “Wish I could wish you back to me.”

Biggs leads her band, including J.R. Braugh (guitarist), Jake Greenlaw (drums, bass), Zachary Bence (bass, keys), James Hawkes (guitars, keys, organ, synth) and Hamilton Belk (pedal steel) on songs written with the heart of a poet and the mind of a skilled artisan.

Born in Memphis, Biggs moved to Kansas at young age before settling in the Belfast area. She lived in Tennessee for a period during her teens and considers the area, its people and its music to be a significant part of her roots.

Biggs says she began writing songs at age 12. A few of those early songs made it to “Genie,” including the title track, written at age 18.

The rocker “Lunch Box” was written by Biggs when she was 17.

“Don’t know where I’m going/Don’t know where I’m going to be/Don’t know it’s the right way and that’s alright with me,” she sings on “Lunch Box.”

Biggs’s musical influences are (in her words) “all over the place.” During various periods, she’s been smitten by the alt-rock of Nirvana, Weezer and Tool, but also by the purity of Tracey Chapman’s folk-pop, the realness of Johnny Cash, the overall musicality of Beck, the heartfelt songs of Gillian Welch and the wildness of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

Preferring to gauge opinion over track selection, Biggs says most of the songs that made it to the record were selected by her band.

The musicians no doubt they listened as they imagined what they might bring to the proceedings. Clearly some time and thought went into these inventive arrangements.

The mid-tempo country rocker “I Can’t Stand It” is one of the songs that sticks with you long after the album is finished. It was named “Maine’s song of the week” by the Portland Press Herald upon release last month.

The album itself became WERU’s chart-topping LP the week it was released. That’s quite an achievement when you consider the artist in the number two position was Bonnie Raitt with her latest record.

Biggs says a lot of people texted her with that news.

“I giggled,” she says. “I feel good about it because WERU is a local station and I feel like my record is receiving a lot of local love.”

“Genie” is also receiving airplay on WCYY and WCLZ radio in Portland and WBFY in Belfast.

“That’s the dream for someone of my generation,” Biggs says. “Spotify is awesome, but I didn’t dream about accumulating streams, I wanted to be played on the radio. It feels really beautiful.”

“Hypermasculinity” is another must-hear track on “Genie.” The swaggering rocker manages to hook you and deliver a message all in under three minutes.

The haunting “Hurricane” provides a powerful showcase for both Biggs and her band as she points out that things are kind of messy today and there’s an unsettling stillness in the air. Arrangement and performance intersect to make this one of the record’s most potent take-away tracks.

“Genie” was largely recorded in Biggs’s home studio in Belfast, with portions recorded at The Halo studio in Windam with Kevin Billingslea, and with James Hawkes at a studio in Amherst, New Hampshire. It was mixed by Jonathan Wyman and mastered by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering in Portland.

After absorbing the songs on “Genie” and then speaking with Biggs about them, I asked if she could describe what it feels like to have written a special song, like one of the tracks on the album.

“It feels fulfilling like I’ve connected with something deeper. It feels like I’m doing what I set out to do. The lyrics are important to me and that’s why I included a lyric book with the CD. I write about the feeling I have inside which is usually some kind of disturbance (laughs) and I write to help myself work through it or just feel it in a different way. When it comes out and has some beauty to it, it’s very special.”

“Genie” is available on CD directly from the artist at www.beccabiggs.com/shop and will be available soon from Bull Moose stores. The album is streaming on Spotify and YouTube. A CD release concert with Biggs and her band will be announced soon.

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2022 08:04

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