Four years ago, Canadian folksinger Jill Barber reinvented herself as a smoky chanteuse with the lush Chances. Thanks largely to its catchy “Oh My My,” the album ignited a rapturous outpouring of praise across her native land, and she was heralded as the second coming of Edith Piaf or even Ella Fitzgerald. Not so fast. While the album demonstrated laudable pluck and confirmed Barber’s status as a solid songwriter, her retro-fashioned bleating seemed more a parlor trick, an elaborate game of dress-up, than a sustainably valid style.
Now, with Mischievous Moon, Barber reteams with producer Les Cooper to ratchet up the atavistic gooiness several degrees, her Minnie Mouse-meets-Brenda Lee voice immersed in soggy, string-drenched arrangements. This time, the artifice ventures beyond Chances’ Jazz Age-esque confines, extending to the faux-’60s fizz of “Took Me by Surprise,” the mock Parisian bal-musette of “If It Weren’t for Loving You” and the quirky Old West showdown “Tell Me.” Still, there are several fine songs buried among all the excess, particularly Barber and Cooper’s cunning “Steal Away,” their furtive “Dis Moi” and, best of all, their teaming with Ron Sexsmith on the bright and breezy “Any Fool Can Fall in Love.”