Feature

Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble – Rise

Congratulations to all the Juno Nominees in the Roots and Traditional categories.

Here’s my personal pick. – AF

In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty – Phil Ochs.

I’ve never been one for music-genre debates, however, I’ll say this about Canadian folk music: I like mine served with balls. This is the genre that acts as the opinion page of the great music publication, where having a point of view is the whole point. Unfortunately, with very rare exception, most of the records that arrive on my desk for review are as neutered as my new puppy.

Fortunately, there are champions among the folkies that offer me hope, people like Jon Brooks.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with him is the remarkable Annabelle Chvostek.

Rise, by the Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble, is the Toronto-based singer/songwriter’s response to the world she found herself observing over the past couple of years. Ugly times, indeed.

Skillfully produced by one of the top producers in Canada, Don Kerr, and mixed by the well-known New York City duo of Roma Baran and Viv StollRise includes songs featuring subjects like the Occupy Movement, Toronto’s infamous G20 protests, equal rights, and even a response to the controversial film, Jesus Camp.

Annabelle Chvostek doesn’t mince her words. From G20 Song:

Making sure the breaking glass
Was in full camera view
Outrage manufactured
Cops lashed out on you and me
Beating shields they charged
Impenetrable lines
Pulled someone behind
Blood and bones, batons a-flying

The album’s musical boldness matches that of its lyrics. A few of the protest songs are anthemic, a style that in the hands of lesser-skilled writers, players and producers, risks resulting in utter embarrassment. In this case, however, songs that may have been borne in anger or frustration become a joy to experience. To that end, Chvostek assembled an eclectic group called A People’s Chorus, including among others, Amy Campbell and Rosemary Phelan. Among other guests on Rise are Oh Susanna and Bruce Cockburn.

Most of the joy, of course, is courtesy of the multi-talented Annabelle Chvostek. She is a musician’s musician, adept on guitar, violin, mandolin, accordion, tuba (yes, tuba) and the famous Quebec-style casserole beats which close the opening number, End of The Road.  Her voice is versatile and pristine (at the age of seven, she was singing with the Canadian Opera Company). Perhaps her greatest strength, however, is her songwriting. Despite its weighty words, listening to Rise is an effortless pleasure. This record is a beauty. Phil Ochs would have approved.

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6 comments

  1. avatar
    Steve Fruitman 29 September, 2012 at 19:26

    Well written Andy – my sentiments exactly. I wrote earlier on Maplepost that this album should be a blueprint for all aspiring musicians on how to put an album of songs together in a package that is impressive and exciting. My favourite album of the year!!!

    Steve Fruitman
    Sugar Camp Music
    CIUT-FM Toronto

  2. avatar
    Jason 30 September, 2012 at 12:14

    I was sad to miss the CD release. I think Annabelle could become one of the most important artists of our time. A truly inspiring artist.

  3. avatar
    John Morrow 30 September, 2012 at 18:05

    Anyone who was in Memphis at Folk Alliance when Annabelle made her unexpected solo appearance after “the unpleasantness that should not be named”, will know that this lady deserves all the respect in the world. Her talent, humility and honesty totally made me a fan for life.

  4. avatar
    Jim Ansell 2 October, 2012 at 09:27

    Annabelle is a true artist. This new creation, “Rise” is indeed a fine recording and worthy of praise. Her previous release, “Resilience” was a hard act to follow. She has followed with another gem. I look forward to listening to “Rise” again and again.

    Thanks for giving credit to the brilliant AbC, Andy!

  5. avatar
    Jim Ansell 29 January, 2013 at 10:55

    Annabelle recently played an intimate show in Owen Sound for an appreciative and mostly new-to-her audience. My esteem and admiration for the person and her music has taken a “Rise”. My hope is for her musical artistry to become much more well known, for she is indeed deserving of recognition and a much wider fan base.
    (gush! Just can’t help it…)

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