Fri, Nov 30, 2012.
Julie Doiron fans always look forward to her appearances in the province, and they have been plentiful over the years, even during the times when she has lived elsewhere. That's why Saturday's show at Parkingdale Hall in Albert County has taken on extra significance, as it's the only provincial date for the launch tour for her new album, So Many Days. It's Doiron's 13th solo album, plus several with Eric's Trip. Having just hit 40, it's funny to think of her as a mature artist, as she's still a poster-person for the alternative crowd, but hey, I guess we're getting older too.
Like her past two albums, this one is also co-produced by Eric's Trip bandmate Rick White, in his trademark up-close, clean but home-made style. Really, Doiron's vocals have never sounded as present and personable, and her singing so powerful. Part of that no doubt is the increasing amount she's been performing with bands the last couple of years. While solo work continues for some gigs, she's been loving rockin' and rolling with her own groups, or as part of Gord Downie's troupe The Country Of Miracles. Instead of being overwhelmed by the occasional distorted guitar lines from White, she digs a little deeper, rising with the energy. And when things are soft, she's that much more in your head.
When Doiron's songs are at their most powerful, such as the country-folk flavoured The Gambler, she's singing right in your ear, with a story that lets you into her life for that time. No one puts across her emotions better, probably because they are so obviously real and so brutally honest. There seems to be no filter between her mind and her pen, no self-editing, no attempt to hide her fears and frustrations. Song after song, it's like we're right with her late at night, when nothing else but her mind is working.
Many of these cuts have been road-tested over the past year, and White and Doiron have done much to adorn them and improve them with extra touches. There are some excellent harmony moments, multiple Doirons entering the picture as a chorus of angels. There are some droning backgrounds that add to the atmosphere, and nasty buzzing guitar that gives several songs an edge against the natural beauty of her voice and notes. But overall, it's still sparse music, and no more powerful than the penultimate track, Homeless, which features her unaccompanied at times, or joined just by a shuddering, deep bass line. As a reflection of her nomadic life over the years, moving place to place on endless tours, and moving homes almost yearly for family needs, the fear and anguish that hits you from this song is as loud as a Marshall stack.
Doiron has recently been posting Facebook comments that speak of the frustration in her life over this grind she's been on for twenty years, and musing about quitting as a full-time musician, finding a real job and settling down. Of course, that's a reflection of the realities of a musician's life, and could just be a fleeting moment that will pass with a good run of shows and better paydays. However, with such a strong album, only one show in the province for the near future, and such retirement hints, it adds up to a very good reason to make the Parkingdale road trip Saturday, Dec. 1.
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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).