Wed, Apr 3, 2013.
So what's Amelia Curran's next gig after playing Fredericton this Saturday? Oh, just a little thing called the Juno Awards, happening in Regina Apr. 21. Curran's been nominated for the Solo Roots and Traditional Album of the year for her latest, Spectators. She's not the only East Coast'er up for that.. she joins Rose Cousins and Old Man Luedecke in the race. And this isn't the first time Amelia has been so honoured; she won that same Juno for her 2009 album, Hunter Hunter. It seems the rest of Canada has figured out this is song writing and performing of the highest quality. It's spreading elsewhere as well; Spectators came out earlier this year in the U.K., to fine reviews, and Curran is back from touring there.
Spectators is one of those albums that begs to be played over and over. Each time it reveals more, especially in its language. It's so crammed with good lines, themes, verses and whole songs, that you can't take it all in at once. I find myself still thinking about the last verse when the next comes along, still caught up in one song when the next is half-over. That's the mark of a crafts person, when the song stays with you for a good long time, in this case to ponder it all. There are mighty topics here, not spelled out completely but left open to let you consider the possibilities. And in the middle of each, there are powerful lines that sail out, worthy of entire songs themselves, like this from the song Years: "The true length of a lie is a list of excuses."
Now, you don't have to press pause and think about each one of these moments. You can just let the sound of Spectators wash over you. I wouldn't call this a folk album, and it's a lot bigger production than her previous albums, a lot more musicians, more percussion and bass, a conscious move to expand her sound, or at least not do the same thing again. Don't think of it as a rock album though. There are still moments of calm, and at its heart its still the work of one person writing with a guitar. Instead, the moods are enhanced, and carefully made with lots of rich accompaniment. A couple of songs feature full horn arrangements, not bold and brassy but rather warm and subtle. String arrangements grace two more, and all the others have different textures to go along with Curran's acoustic guitar, as much sound effects as they are other instruments. Martin Tielli of Rheostatics fame makes his ghostly presence felt on The Modern Man. Fellow Newfoundlander Geoff Panting of Rawlins Cross provides a church organ to San Andreas Fault, and another trio of Newfoundlanders, The Once, makes up the holy choir of harmonies, in that song about the biggest possible broken heart.
The most haunting song is the closer, Face On The News, which sets out the theme of Spectators. Often we settle our lives, and become spectators to tragedies, world-wide and closer to home. Here Curran speaks for herself, and for others that wonder too, if we do enough before something bad happens to friends, or in communities. She doesn't point fingers, she just asks the question, which is much more powerful.
Catch Amelia Curran Saturday night, April 6, at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton, and wish her good luck at the Juno Awards!
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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).