Tue, May 21, 2013.
Indie music was always supposed to be different from the mainstream, pushing the edge. But for the past couple of decades, ever since Nirvana went ballistic, indie has followed the same pattern: As soon as there's something fresh, there are dozens of bands that follow the lead. Indie is predictable as the latest Jay-Z collaboration. It's a rare album that comes along that truly sounds unique and independent of the rest. Toronto's The Jessica Stuart Few gave me one of those WTF moments, stopping me in my tracks for a good, close listen of the group's new Two Sides To Every Story.
Stuart herself is a different player altogether. She alternates between guitar and the Japanese koto, a stringed instrument which is plucked like a harp, has a pleasant higher register and a bit of a drone. The Few in her band are just two, double bassist Dan Fortin and a drummer (there are three different ones on the disc). The sound is a fusion of jazz and pop, ranging into folk, but with a power trio drive. Singer Stuart has a gorgeous voice, pure and expressive, again with a touch of jazz phrasing but near angelic as well. You have this singer-songwriter performing beautifully, and the trio grooving on jazz chords and innovative, complimentary parts. All that, and the distinctive koto playing, a blend not heard anywhere else. When she isn't on the koto, Stuart's guitar playing is different as well, a kind of angular approach, sticking New York new wave jagged playing onto the bass-drums jazz and her sweet melodies.
Most of the album was recorded live in the studio, so I'm assuming this will be a pretty cool show. The JSF are playing around New Brunswick right now, with dates Wednesday, May 22 at the Bridge St. Cafe in Sackville, and Friday at Le Deck in Edmundston.
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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).