Album review

Meg Tennant – Echoed Light

Meg Tennant performing with Mark Ripp on Radio Regent. Photo by Paul Corby.

A mist rises over the lake at dawn and is vanquished, not by the dark, but by excesses of sunlight. The glorious harmonies that resonate to the inner ear disappear when sung. Within the folds of a new acoustic–based collection of songs from Toronto’s Meg Tennant, this is the fractal observation that oscillates at the core of its title tune, and throughout her album, Echoed Light.

“Love comes out of nowhere,” she sings. Then it astonishes with the abruptness of its departure, invariably leaving her behind to curate stubborn stings and awkward artifacts. In her song “Glass Heart” she is stuck with her ex’s sweater and decides “to give it to the Salvation Army / at least it will keep someone warm.”

Harvesting all of her insights into the nature of the loving heart, distilling them into evanescent images and uncommon sense, Meg’s thorough lyrical groundwork is evident in the elegance and pragmatism of the message she illuminates with each song. Her voice radiates an assurance in the truth of her emotions, although she takes no overt comfort in their sparkling facade, no confidence in their lasting effects.

Co-producer Mark Ripp, who has a deep connection with Meg from their late-70s coffee shop days, has honoured the directness of her poetic perceptions by refraining almost entirely from the use of reverb, save on the occasional electric guitar. She confides directly in the listener. The intimacy of her voice is always the centrepiece, its transparent delicacy expressing a tenderness and restraint that often overflows into sublime beauty under the spell cast by harmony vocalists Clela Errington and Jocelyn Barth and her two daughters, Sadie and Emily.

With love and light as the focus of the production, Ripp uses a variety of instruments and players to dapple the reflective effects of the tunes and asserts his talent for aural cloisonné to fill the soundstage with the warmth of acoustic bass, haunting harmonica, organically comfortable drums, and the rich tones of Ivan Rosenberg’s dobro.  Meg collaborated closely on arrangements and the choice of players, so there is a refined integrity to Mark’s final mix that ends up breathing along with and magnifying the feelings and meaningful undercurrents that her tunes are intended to conjure.

“There’s a lot of content,” he smiles.

The songs, most of them recent, pulse with the ideology of perseverance that Meg brings to all of her stories: the “promise written on the wind” in “Not Done Yet,” her faith in the enduring power of song, “a dream that takes flight outside of time“(“Kitchen Light”) and her ultimate conviction, expressed in “Let’s Walk This Road”: “they say the light gets brighter when you reach the open sea.” “Live On Love” is a folk rock radio-friendly anthem to the satisfactions of combining hearts, “Silence & Snowbanks” is an icily Canadian goodbye blues number, and “Hooked Me Like a Habit” is an open confessional from a perplexed lover “looking for a light switch in the dark.”

There will be a rallying of all the players (minus the drummer) involved with this splendid album, Echoed Light – available now at megtennantmusic.com – this coming Friday, when it launches at the Burdock in Toronto. Look for Meg appearing in festivals and folk shops as the summer unfolds, “like echoed light, flashing everywhere.”

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