“All I need is a little fire,” sings Alberta songwriter Emily Triggs in the opening line of her sophomore solo release, Middletown. And that’s exactly what she delivers in this multi-layered ten-song collection of musings about love, longing, and loss. The elements of fire, water, air and earth permeate the songs both lyrically and metaphorically, resting upon a rootsy bed of tracks contributed by some of Western Canada’s finest, including guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Chris Byrne, drummer Chris Dadge and backing vocalists Chris Nevile, Brooke Wylie, and the incomparable Zadravec sisters, Shaye and Sydney. Carefully curated by producer Lorrie Matheson, their contributions support the airy clarity of her bell-like tones as gently as a forest floor, never overwhelming or distracting from a listening experience that creeps up on you like warmth after a winter chill. The complexity and range of the emotions she expresses in each of these bittersweet tunes could easily be overlooked by focusing on the simplicity and conversational directness of her lyrical approach, as well as the delightful musicality of the recordings. Similarly, while the songs draw noticeably from familiar folk traditions, Emily inserts a subtly original spin on chord structure, arrangements and melody, creating a vibe that is both familiar and yet fresh. The contrast between light and shadow, vulnerability and strength, as well as hope and despair infuse this work with a maturity and depth that speaks of a life well-lived. Her heart may have been broken, but she’ll “pick up the broken parts” and “make sure all the cracks are filled with gold.” The darkness may chase her, as she sings in the lullaby “Everlasting Light,” but we believe her when she later sings with rollicking conviction, “I’m here to light you up, I’ll come in fighting and I’ll never give up.” I hope she never does. Sometimes all we need is a little fire.

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