Suddenly here I was being busted by the American Department of Homeland Security for something that wasn't mine...Me, the folk singer who thought a roach was an insect.
—Cara Luft, Winnipeg Singer-songwriter
Winnipeg's Cara Luft was a founding member of The Wailin Jennys, before she struck out on her own to pursue a successful solo career.
Luft is celebrating her long awaited third solo CD, Darlingford, with a hometown show at the West End Cultural Centre, on Friday, April 13.
Luft is a gifted songwriter and plays a mean acoustic guitar to boot. She's spent the last few years touring across Canada and in the U.K., performing, recording tracks for the CD in interesting venues (including a church in Darlingford, Manitoba), and co-writing songs.
The bonus track on Darlingford, "Charged!" is inspired by one heck of a road story she collected along the way. It involves false accusations, sniffer dogs and an unusual deal with a judge.
* * * *
In the summer of 2010, just as I was getting ready to start working on this new album, I was hit by the abrupt exit of my life-partner who was set to act as engineer and co-producer.
Emotionally wracked, I knew it would do me some good to get out of town for awhile and I chose to go co-write songs with my good friend Lewis Melville in Guelph, ON.
I decided to drive from Winnipeg to Guelph through the States to save time. I arrived at the border and when asked what I did for a living I told them that I was a folk singer.
They promptly pulled me over, hauled me inside and asked, "Do you have any weapons on your person that you're going to attack us with?" I couldn't figure it out.
I should have yelled "my songs are my weapons!". One of the guards came in and said, "We have found marijuana in your car, you better 'fess up and tell us what else you're transporting, we're bringing in the dogs!"
All I could say was "It's not mine! I'm a folk singer!" The truth is it really wasn't mine. For people who don't know me very well, I am perhaps Canada's most boring professional musician.
Suddenly I was being busted by the American Department of Homeland Security for something that wasn't mine and for something I really know nothing about. Me, the folk singer who thought a roach was an insect.
When they showed me the pot I asked, "Is that a lot?" I couldn't for the life of me figure out whose pot it was and how it had gotten there. And then it hit me: a big-wig in the folk scene had recently been in my car, someone who was a pot user, and it must have fallen out of his jacket and got kicked under the passenger seat.
I jumped up and said to the guards, "I know whose pot it is!" They didn't care. Instead they said, "We're going to charge you a minimum $10,000 fine and confiscate your vehicle."
At this point I broke down and bawled my eyes out and told them about all the crap that had just happened in my personal life and that I couldn't take anymore. I'm not sure what did it, if it was the complete and utter honesty of my broken-down state, but for whatever reason they knocked it down to the State level and had the State of Minnesota charge me instead.
They told me when my court appearance was, and sent me on my merry way. I was physically shaking when I finally arrived at Lewis' house, and as I sat in his back garden and cried and cried he said, "Let's write some songs!"
Listen to the song called "Charged" that Cara wrote after her experience.
We wrote "Charged!" about the incident at the border and laughed until our sides ached, and then laughed some more.
The song became my "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" card: the DA was so surprised that I wrote a song about my experience, he started laughing and said, "Cara, I've prosecuted a lot of people and I've never gotten a song out of it before." He said he thought I was actually telling him the truth (which I was!).
We struck a deal: if I wasn't charged with anything else in a 30 day period he would dismiss the case. So I avoided the States for a month and the charges were dropped.
I have since sent the song to the DA, who has shared it with his colleagues in law enforcement and the verdict is: everyone loves it!