Music Review: Gabrielle Papillon - Little Bug

Nova Scotia's Papillon gets her first big-time production, courtesy of Daniel Ledwell (Jenn Grant, In-Flight Safety), and wow, what a big leap. Fans of her previous album will recognize a couple of songs, and there's a huge difference with the sonics and studio craft. But you can't just do this with anyone, and Papillon is one of the most interesting writers and singers to come along of late.

She's a wordsmith alright, nothing too verbose, but able to string unexpected words and phrases, and look at a scene from a completely different view than the norm. Lead track Go Into The Night features a loved one leaving, but only for a short time, a planned trip from which they will return. There are nautical images, and quite simply, words you just don't hear in most people's songs: "get off your perch", and "burrow down". I'm already captured and captivated, and we've just started our little 45-minute journey.

Ledwell lets her add a lot more colours to what are mostly calm and gentle folk songs. The difference in Turn Left, one of the re-recorded numbers, isn't in volume, but in the way new instruments, programmed sounds and even claps get added. Strings swirl around the vocals, and Jenn Grant swirls around Papillon in a close vocal dance. It's the most complex production on the album, but it's all in the subtlety. It's a lesson on how to build acoustic guitar songs into sounds that are new and exciting.

Another great line, from the title cut: "I haven't been this way for many years/I hold you to no promise, no arrears." Just pointing that one out. And where does such a charming image come from? Describing herself as a little bug, a little tug, "pulling at your heart strings". Whether it's a character, or the way she sees herself, again, this is a new metaphor to my ears, at least in your basic popular song.

There are several highlights, including a beautiful a capella song in French, Papillon's first on disc, with sweet harmonies and small hand claps the only add-ons. Moonless Night grabs a banjo and a pony-riding beat, and makes out like a Western tale, her Ghost Riders In The Sky for lovers. The lone cover is a quite different version of In The Pines, all ancient, off-kilter harmonies, and a stomp-clap beat added to give it the proper chain gang rhythm. Finally, there's a wonderful piece of whimsy to end the disc, I Am Sold. It's the fastest tune here, a mix of Andrews Sisters and that Western thing again, happy as all get out, with bells and kazoo sounds and a clip-clop beat. Our little trip with a little bug ends with a big smile.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob 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).

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