Mon, Mar 4, 2013.
You can't accuse Sarah Slean of going lean. Her latest album, Land & Sea, was an ambitious double-disc, with one side pop/rock tunes produced by Joel Plaskett, and the other a string-laden affair, reflecting on the sea, and with full arrangements and orchestra. Now, she's hitting the road with a big string section to tour the release, but is only going to feature one disc of the album, the Sea side. Slean explains that, to her, Land doesn't meet the Sea. "I put them side by side in the same package, because they inform each other, there is a lyrical theme to each of one. But I couldn't see performing the Sea side together with the Land disc. They are two different things. It would be sort of strange to play these together in the same concert."
Slean is bringing the tour to New Brunswick this week, and in fact, there's a local component to the shows. It's a system she's using across the country, augmenting her core group with local players, in order to be able to afford the big orchestra. "When I was making the album, I had the thought, Sarah, how are you going to do this, tour with a 21-piece orchestra, this is impossible. But the muse listens to no one. Now I'm left to sort out the mundane details. How will I get this together? It is sort of fun. I have core group of musicians, strings, a drummer, eight pieces in all. Then we add in each venue. I think in New Brunswick we are adding string players that will take it up to 13 or 14 on stage. We have a rehearsal in the daytime, during the soundcheck and then we're ready."
For a performer who has often toured by herself, seated at the piano. having so many musicians interpreting her songs has been a blessing. She's already done most of the dates on the tour, and says it's been a great success: "Ottawa was a career highlight for me. It's indescrible to hear that sound. Strings..it's the literal sound of your heart lifting, or heart aching. It's the equivalent of human emotion. It's moving and exciting for me to hear that realized. It's amazing. That's what is so important about hiring people, instead of keyboards to do it. They understand emotion, they have experienced wonder and emotion, sorrow and loss. These are the things that make their playing transcend, and that is why I'm going to all this trouble."
You can catch Sarah Slean and her orchestra performing Sea Friday March 8, at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, and Saturday the 9th at The Playhouse in Fredericton.
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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).