Tue, Apr 1, 2014.
Eleanor McCain already has a strong recording and performing career behind her, five albums, including a brand-new one, Runaway, coming out Tuesday, April 8. But there's one thing she hasn't done since turning professional, and it's quite surprising. She's never played her home town of Florenceville. That's about to change though, Friday night. McCain is launching the new album with a show at the Carleton North Theatre, and then travelling to dates in Memramcook, Truro and Halifax.
It all came together by happy circumstance. The timing, as it turned out, was perfect. McCain, on the phone from her home in Toronto, says she's thrilled with the way it worked out. "It's really nice and meaningful. The show at home was in place before we decided on a release date for the album, and because it was there, we decided to build the launch show around it." Plus, she's bringing a special guest too. Canadian jazz singer Matt Dusk, one of this year's Juno nominees for best Jazz vocal album, is not just a friend. He also produced the new Runaway album, and now they are teaming up for a unique duo showcase. "Matt and I had done a few shows last year while we were working on the disc," says McCain, "And I mentioned this show and asked if he could come, and I was thrilled he said yes. It's great to be coming home, it's the first concert I've done at home since I started on this journey of music, it's very meaningful. And for Matt to be there, all these elements, it's great."
The new Runaway album is a crossover piece involving all sorts of fields. McCain is a classically-trained singer, and her work also includes lots of Celtic melodies. Meantime, Dusk is a classic jazz singer, and his last, Juno-nominated disc was My Funny Valentine, The Chet Baker Songbook. All those influences combined for Runaway, which is a collection of classic and contemporary love songs. Dusk explains how the project with his long-time friend came about: "We met about 10 years ago, and awhile back I remember I was at lunch with her, and she said, 'Hey I'm doing this record', and I said, 'Hey, why don't I produce it? Why don't we get together and see if this stuff sticks to the wall?'
Runaway features a collection chosen by McCain, Dusk and renowned arranger Shelley Berger. They include (relatively) modern favourites Both Sides Now, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and Just The Way You Are. Also, Dusk went into the studio to duet with McCain on Bob Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love. "I had a lot of fun singing with Eleanor. I have more of a raspy, jazzy sound, and Eleanor's voice has a very pure sound to it. It works well in a guy-girl sense. When we were recording, I was singing the songs in the control room, so I said, you gotta let me sing."
As for the show, McCain is calling the four Maritime dates with Dusk the Celtic Swing Tour. It won't be a typical arrangement of sets. Instead the pair, along with Dusk's five-piece group, will play together. "We actually spent a lot of time thinking about this," McCain says. It will bring the various elements of our style together, with Matt's swing jazz style, this love songs album, and my Celtic background, mixing it all up. It's going back and forth, not just a set from him and a set from me. We'll do some duets, Matt's going to do some Celtic-style stuff, I'll do some jazz."
It's not just Florenceville that's getting the special treatment. McCain feels like all four dates are a homecoming. "Each date is in a geographical region which has meaning to me. I went to Mount Allison, so to sing in nearby Memramcook is great. My mom's from Truro, so there's a connection. And my folks had a summer place outside Halifax, so each place is special to me."
The Celtic Swing tour opens Friday night, Apr. 4 at the Carleton North Theatre, Florenceville-Bristol. On Saturday, Apr. 5, Dusk and McCain play the Monument-Lefebvre in Memramcook, then Truro's Marigold Centre Sunday Apr. 6, and the Carleton in Halifax Monday Apr. 7.
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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).