Melissa Adams, who splits her time between Houston and Chicago, pushes every well-worn musical button and trots out a thesaurus of lyrical clichés in her second independent release, In My Eyes, a quarter-pounder for the ears if ever there was one.
Let's say up front that Adams has progressed since her debut, Firefly, was released a couple of years back. The new album (recorded at Heights Sound Studios) includes some good performances from fiddler Jeff Duncan, flutist Jeff Abrams and backup singer Selia Qynn. Ultimately, though, even a crack Nashville studio band might not have been able to get past the material's Swiss cheese effect -- time and again a few choice tidbits are surrounded by empty holes.
Opener "Freight Train" turns the song's protagonist into the title locomotive as she rushes around living the hectic life. This hackneyed voyage bogs down in cumbersome picking, and Adams's light, folksy cadence turns the whole thing into a one-way trip on the Prozac Express. The sultry, jazzy mood of the song "Footsteps" is destroyed by Adams's herky-jerky vocal arrangement and repetition of the same eight-note range. And in "Heart of Stone," set to a trippy soundtrack torn from a disco scene in the 1960s Bond spoof Our Man Flint, Adams sounds so incongruously nice she comes across like Reese Witherspoon in The Exorcist.
Adams does put it all together on about a third of the 12 tracks, most notably the moody "Family Heirlooms," which features a mid-tempo arrangement that suits her vocal style, a sense of emotional longing and some believable imagery.
By then, though, there's not a whole lot left for the listener to do except head out for a Big Mac with cheese.