Sure enough, the foundation of the new record was captured live-off-the-floor at St. Matthias church in west-end Toronto, a nod perhaps, to the Junkies’ famous The Trinity Session (in fact, Best Dress was mastered by Peter Moore, the sonic mastermind behind The Trinity Session).
Producer John Zytaruk plays a similar role for Collette Savard as Mike Timmins plays for Cowboy Junkies, filling the space with a rich foundation of highly skilled, largely acoustic instrumentation. Unlike the Junkies, however, the singer, Collette Savard, acts as the songwriter and mood-setter; she is a superb vocalist with terrific power and range, and one who appears to sing directly from her soul.
One of the many pleasing features on Best Dress is the variety of original songs on the record.
Zytaruk, Savard’s musical — and life — partner, said, “From the moment I met her, I knew she was that rarest of talents: a supremely gifted, natural songwriter. In the ten years I have known her, she still hasn’t started repeating herself.“
There is nevertheless a consistent, sweet, melancholic mood present in every note of Best Dress. For example, the piano parts on the record, played by the incomparable Bob Wiseman, were recorded in the front room of the Tranzac club in Toronto, and if you’ve never heard that beer-soaked upright, well, as Zytaruk puts it, “that funky old piano has such character”.
Indeed this record is loaded with character.
Engineer Joe Mancuso expertly captured prolific rhythm-section veterans Brian Kobayakawa (bass) and Adam Warner (drums), Zytaruk’s dobro, baritone guitar (which he uses to marvelous effect), banjo, acoustic guitar, lap steel, and hammered dulcimer, as well as Savard’s guitar, dulcimer, ukulele and banjo. Other complementary instruments include violin (Saskia Tompkins) cello and accordion (Steve McNie).
Rarely are lead vocals recorded along with the other instruments, even in live-off-the-floor sessions, but Collette Savard bucked the trend.
John Zytaruk explains: “What we did is record in a manner that was very old-school, the way many of our favourite records from the 50′s and 60′s were done: you take some well-rehearsed musicians, get them to play all together at the same time in a really great sounding room, and record it really well using great microphones.”
And as with many of those old recordings, it worked. Best Dress is quite simply a great record.
On Saturday evening, April 21st, Collette Savard will undoubtedly wear her best dress to her CD Release party at the Tranzac’s main hall in Toronto, the perfect, gritty venue for the occasion.
This video features a song that doesn’t appear on Best Dress, but it captures the recording session.