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Shari Ulrich Diptych – A Review in Prose and Poetry

i) There WILL be poetry. But first, for those of you who may be suspicious of rhyme schemes (or antsy with scansion), it is ultimately most important to know that Shari Ulrich has a new record out. A superlative follow-up to 2014’s Everywhere I Go, which won her a Songwriter of the Year award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, Back To Shore is a thoughtful, attractive and radio-ready package full of testimony to Shari’s hard-earned familiarity with existential turbulence, heart storms, and the potential for redemption in following your conscience’s GPS.

The first three songs are lit by themes of wisdom, comfort and hope, and by Scott Smith’s galvanizing electric guitar and dobro, energizing the tidal attraction of the record. The key resolution of the second song, “Love is Everything,” offers a recuperation strategy from loneliness, fear and desperation with a simply-sung cure that spreads a positive sheen across the entire record’s topography. The album is imprinted throughout with Shari’s mature perspective and affable personality: candid and wry, “a little tough and a little wild,” accepting love with gratitude and the pains of regret with equanimity.

I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I feel so positive and so happy, virtually all the time,” she said. “There’s a lot of joy in me now.”

This feeling is communicated to the listener through long, ornately harmonized vocal lines, upbeat phrasing and the artistically latticed interplay of instruments.

To assign credit for these empathetic attributes, the disk is once again co-produced by Shari and her “giant science-brain” daughter Julia Graff, alongside James Perrella, who both graduated from the same exclusive McGill masters class in music recording.

Along for the voyage is another proud McGill alumnus – and Bowen Island’s favourite piano teacher – Cindy Fairbank, and Shari’s High Bar Gang compadre Kirby Barber, who is currently touring the record as Shari’s bass player but who brings luminous harmony and guitar skills to the album.

The thoughtful metaphoric balladry of “The Sweater” holds the heart with a carmellized string duet weave and Shari takes over the fiddle herself for a celebration of her affection for Canada and its natural soul provisions. Reflective moods and a hope for reconcilliation with “hurtful and thoughtless” circumstances dominate “These Lines,” “By And By” and “Forgiveness.” And the album concludes with a bipolar icecap of an instrumental called “Ferry Tale Jig” and a final “Goodnight” that calls us all into a tentative eulogy for the planet – which is also a concern in another of her songs, “Mars,” and the more profound personal farewell of the narrator of “That’s What I Thought Too,” which also features the deep blue B3 skills of Cindy Fairbank.

All in all, this album is the utmost Ulrich.

And now a review in poetry:

ii) Shari Ulrich : She Of The Lyric Courage

Shoring up knowledge –

Cheery and accurate –

Clearly as an oracle –

Sharp and original.

Originally hatched from the Pied Pumkin patch –

She studied with Vi-valdi –

(Fo-Folk singer from Va-Vancouver) –

Road grad from his Hometown Band –

And from UHF and The High Bar Gang –

Now she’s become a heritage brand.

Her brand new disk –

Called Back To Shore

Full of the love of her loves and more –

Global warnings and advice galore –

Don’t “risk your whole damn ship –

Crashing on a rocky shore,” –

For romance’s disguises –

& moral compromises –

Be wise to surprises –

(& Cara Luft’s banjo besides this).

Beside love she is humble –

Because trouble can wake you –

But “When everything is sinking,

Love will stay afloat” –

Love is all she sings about –

Love Is Everything” she wrote –

Savour that quote –

It’s Gospel truth.

Truth is in the flavours and fibers –

Of all the songs –

Survivors and a thirsty tree –

And a sweater, and a refugee –

An anthem and some hard good-byes –

And that’s just for starters.

Soon will come the day

We’re going to say

we should have tried harder,”-

She wants us to be smarter than our phones,

To realize, “Just how precious

are these roots and bones,

Heart and home.”

Her home is Bowen Island

But she’s on assignment now –

Touring, booking madly –

Wrestling the road –

This record is her ninth.

And she’s started on the tenth –

She easily confides

She has a new resource of strength

I don’t know what’s happened to me

but I feel so positive

And so happy, virtually all the time

There’s a lot of joy in me now.”

Now she’s sharing all the riches –

Of this brave collection which is

Meant to help and heal and to

Preserve our secret wishes –

Shelter us to harbour –

Showing off her rubric –

And shouldn’t we all reach –

~ she asks ~

For what is truly epic?

Shari Ulrich:

Back To Shore.

Get it from the source:

Go to Shari’s Store

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