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.
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 Stoll, Rise 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
Cops lashed out on you and me
Beating shields they charged
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.