You would think Michael-Ann's back story would be more substantial. Although the L.A. resident has shared the stage with several A-list artists - Ricky Skaggs, Blake Shelton and Kenny Rogers included - she has little to show in terms of any previous endeavor except an EP. That makes "Heavy Load" such a surprise. It offers all indication that she's arrived intact, possessing a singular savvy and astute ability to transpose her influences and emit an effortless attitude all her own.
While echoes of Emmylou, Lucinda Williams and Patti Griffin offer a sure sense of familiarity, Michael-Ann's sturdy, freewheeling sensibility makes it apparent she's completely at ease on her own. That in itself offers evidence she's engaged. All it takes to further convince is a listen to any -- if not all - the songs on this impressive debut. It begins with the effortless, up-tempo jaunt of "Any Day," segues into the resolute, well-worn trappings of "Heavy Load" and eventually culminates in the rousing revelry of "What Don't Kill Ya." Stirring ballads like "Bring It On Home" and "I Would," interspersed with back porch rambles "Hard To Breathe," "Trail Of My Tears" and "Troubles To The Wind" further add to that air of authenticity. It's an unshakeable feeling that Michael-Ann has already arrived.
What may be most astonishing of all is that fact that "Heavy Load" was unaccompanied by any hype or forewarning. Likewise, there's no big name guest stars to elevate it to any elevated plateau. The fact that Micheal-Lee has managed to craft such an accomplished effort on her first time out speaks volumes in terms of her taste and talent.