Gordy the moose is back with Part Two of his latest round of picks from the Roots Music Canada virtual mailbox.
Kristen Martell – Coming Home (Release date: Apr. 24, 2020)
Raised in a musical family in northern New Brunswick, Kristen Martell mastered guitar, fiddle, piano and trombone in her youth and began writing songs as a form of mediation and a means through which to understand and express her emotions. She played the local singer-songwriter circuit as a young adult before settling into a career as an environmental scientist and a mom. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone from leaving a career in environmental science because goodness knows we need environmental scientists more than ever these days. But damn, the world also needs Kristen Martell’s music. For someone who only just reentered the music scene, she’s got the sort of clear-eyed musical identity that usually only comes from having spent a long time figuring out who one is as an artist. Perhaps it goes back to her having used music as a form of meditation in her youth. I don’t know. But this EP is the musical equivalent of walking through a field on a warm, sunny day in a state of contended reflection. Kristen possesses a sweet, airy, mezzo soprano (I think; it’s a bit hard to place her range), and her arrangements are earthy and homespun and dappled at times with close harmonies. All in all, this is a gorgeous quasi-debut, and I hope that lockdown is freeing up some time for Kristen to write more songs like this.
Julie Arsenault – The Creature that I Call Myself (Release date: May 22, 2020)
Julie Arsenault first released this album back in 2014 to almost zero fanfare after previously performing with Luke Kuplowsky’s project LUKA. She’s since released four more collections of songs that have left almost no footprint online. Heck the woman doesn’t even have a website – at least, not one that a search engine will call up if you Google her name. And yet a record label way over in Barcelona decided that The Creature that I Call Myself needed to be discovered and took it upon itself to reissue it as an extended edition. It’s not hard to see the appeal. Julie has a one-of-a-kind fractured, plaintive vocal delivery, a deeply intimate sound, and compelling indie folk arrangements that brush up against Americana. If I have just one grievance, it’s that 14 songs of that is a lot to process in an era when collections are trending shorter and shorter. I understand that the label doubtless wanted to sweeten the pot for fans who already had the original, but perhaps releasing it as two collections would’ve given listeners more of a chance to absorb all of the goodness. Plus, then people would’ve had two more chances to discover Julie.
The Burying Ground – A Look Back (May 15, 2020)
The core of Vancouver’s The Burying Ground is Woody Forster and Devora Laye, who previously played together in the Dire Wolves, an acoustic blues stringband with a punk rock following. They are backed up by a rotating cast of impressive west coast musicians that’s included Trent Freeman of the Fretless and Jack Garton of Maria in the Shower. Their sound is raw, old southern blues and roots, but with an East Vancouver ethos. That is to say that the approach feels like an earthy, modern homage to the source material, and the lyrics comment on today’s social issues.
Jake Ian – Half a Day Away (Release date: May 28, 2020)
Jake Ian is a veteran of the Alberta music milieu, and like members of the Burying Ground, he’s got a background in the punk scene. His weathered singing style reminds me a bit of Eric Andersen at times, only with more twang. “The Lucky Ones’ from his forthcoming album, Half a Day Away, is an absolutely beguiling Celtic-tinged folk song, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.