Mon, Aug 20, 2012.
My spies at Moncton's Plan B tell me this band played an excellent show last night (Sunday), and have a couple more in the Maritimes, Monday night at The Carleton in Halifax, and Tuesday at The Bistro in Woodstock. Coming out of the alt-country scene in Toronto, but with their hearts in rural spaces in Ontario, the Strumbellas launched their debut, My Father and The Hunter this spring. It's a big sound and a big group of players, heavy on the strings and vocals, but with a big beat behind them, bass and drums driving everything along. Banjo, violin, ukulele and mandolin sweeten the sound, and for the most part you'll need your happy face and crazy legs to keep up.
The band has all the energy of the old-timey groups pouring out of the cracks this days, but with much brighter songs than most, and excellent group harmonies. As opposed to, say, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, this bunch can really sing, and pile on the vocals. The massed choir they produce is actually the biggest instrument on the disc. For a better comparison, I'd say it's like Great Lake Swimmer, plus another bunch of Great Lake Swimmers, and then more Great Lake Swimmers.
The songs are mysterious, with abstract lyrics and images. There isn't one story I can point to as obvious and fully understandable, but they all drag you in to their ghost stories and wide open landscapes. The most beautiful of them all is Diane, which is almost all vocals, with gentle guitar and piano in the background, as the singers sweep us away to a forest to meet her. There's even a brief bit of church hymn harmony to close the disc, in Carry My Body. This disc makes me feel very, very good.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).