Megan Hilty the actress gets in the way of Megan Hilty the singer on her debut, “It Happens All the Time.”
The star of TV’s “Smash” and such Broadway shows as “Wicked” and “9 to 5: The Musical” (in which she played the Dolly Parton role from the movie) is trained in musical theater and no slouch as a singer. But she’s also an actress, and her chameleonic nature tends to override the continuity of her album.
Singers typically “play” themselves, or at least a consistent singer persona, while actors shift characters from role to role. And there’s a whole lot of shifting going on by Hilty as she attempts to define her identity on “It Happens All the Time.”
The native of Washington state alternately flaunts her range and struggles to keep up with the over-diversity of material produced by Andy Zulla and Jimmy Hogarth. She avoids over-the-top theatrics, though enough histrionics flare up to occa-sionally betray her.
Hilty insinuates herself into the textured flow of the adult contemporary title-track opener, and she works up a low-grade infection in the syncopated bump of “No Cure.” Also, she’s relatively subdued in the stately arrangement of “The Heart of the Matter” – a surprisingly pleasant spin on the Don Henley hit.
Elsewhere, Hilty fails to pull off the pouty/bitter “Be a Man,” and the grand closer, “Dare You to Move,” just feels too big for her voice. On the flipside, she’s a suitable fit for the polished melodies and borderline-bland ballad “Safe and Sound” and mid-tempo “Walk Away.” Then there’s the featherweight “Hopin’,” which is simply beneath her.
The most encouraging/discouraging news comes from Hilty’s versions of Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter” and Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up.” Even if these songs weren’t her choice to cover, her willingness to even try indicates she recog-nizes great songwriting. However, she comes up flat in both instances, her artless delivery paling in comparison to that of those complex veterans.
Maybe with more seasoning and edge, she’ll get there, too.
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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