Becca Biggs walks into this Mainer record review with two strikes against her. For one thing, she’s a real-estate agent who’s renting Airbnbs in the Midcoast during a housing crisis. For another, her music is clean and conventional enough to be played on commercial radio.
The Realtor thing I can get over. After all, Harry Nilsson worked in a freakin’ bank before he made it in the music biz, and no one holds that against him. The conventionality is a higher hurdle to clear in my book, but Biggs pulls it off on the sheer strength of her signing and songwriting.
Strikes or no strikes, Becca Biggs’ debut solo album, Genie, is a hit.
Born in Tennessee but raised in Maine, Biggs has either retained or is channeling an engaging Southern twang. It matches the music perfectly, as Genie is an alt-country album that freely ranges into rock and indie-folk territories.
To my biased ear, the rockier material here is the strongest. “I Know Who I Am” and “I Can’t Take It” would fit snugly on the WCLZ playlist between Gillian Welch and the latest by Ray Lamontagne. (Naturally, the latter track has already appeared on Aimsel Ponti’s popular “Music From 207” show on ’CLZ.) That said, there’s no denying the pull of a ballad like “Broken,” which Biggs’ beautiful and dexterous voice lifts clear out of the park.
“Hypermasculinity” is an electrified version of a song Biggs first cut acoustically as a member of Sugarbush, an all-female indie-roots trio whose 2018 release, Matriarch, is also a damn fine record. Biggs plays banjo, and the guys she recruited during the pandemic to back her on this album — including guitarists J.R. Braugh and James Hawkes, and Toughcat Jake Greenlaw on drums — did an ace job under trying circumstances.
Granted, it always helps to have pros like Jonathan Wyman at the mixing board, and Adam Ayan, of the world’s greatest mastering studio, Gateway, on the job. I’m guessing the commodification of housing had a hand in how great Genie sounds, but I also guess I’m OK with that, too.
You can hear tracks and watch videos from Genie at beccabiggs.com.