Miss Emily Brown – Era to Era, Coast to Coast

By Jenny Henkelman
Flowered wallpaper, little-known Catholic observances and wartime longing—things and feelings pretty far removed from most young musicians, including Emily Millard. But Millard, who performs under the name Miss Emily Brown, explores them all on her new album, In Technicolor. It’s a gorgeous album, with warm acoustic and electronic sounds, with Millard’s effortless soprano colouring in her clever but heartful folk songs. Stylus exchanged electronic letters with Millard during her current tour, which stops in Winnipeg on April 19 at Mondragon.

Stylus: You used your grandmother’s wartime diary as inspiration for the songs on this album. What drew you to choosing an artifact and using it for inspiration in this way? Is your songwriting process different when you do it this way?
Miss Emily Brown:
I first discovered my grandmother’s journal when I was about fourteen. It was on the bookshelf in a zippered leather case with my grandfather’s Second World War medals and Air Force papers. For years I had thought of researching the details of her journal and writing songs about it, mostly as a way of getting to know the grandmother I never met. Last year I was finally ready to do that. My songwriting process wasn’t so different for the songs on In Technicolor. I really like to write about other peoples’ life experiences. It helps me understand them better. I find that when I write about the lives of others, the songs last longer because I don’t out-grow them like I do with songs based on my own feelings. I love finding pieces of writing or hearing stories and then boiling them down to a few verses of song.

Continue reading “Miss Emily Brown – Era to Era, Coast to Coast”

Review: Basia Bulat – Heart of My Own

Heart of My Own

basiabulatWhen Basia Bulat released her first full-length, Oh, My Darling, in 2007, it was quite under the radar. Sure, it was released on legendary UK label Rough Trade and later on Hayden’s Hardwood Records in Canada, but it was unassuming (not unlike Bulat herself). It had, after all, been recorded primarily to serve as a souvenir of a moment in time—a record of the music being made among a small group of friends and family. The intervening years have brought a Polaris Prize nomination, trips around the folk festival circuit and lots of attention for this appealing singer-songwriter, who was transformed from English Literature grad student to indie folk darling. You’ll be pleased to learn, as I was, that Bulat has lost none of her charm with Heart of My Own. Her music is still deceptively delicate at times, building into crescendos of emotion and sound. The record has a more old-school folk feeling, with the autoharp front and centre on tracks like “The Shore” and “If It Rains.” The poetry of her lyrics is still straightforward enough to be accessible but not too simple as to descend into cliché. In short: this record affirms that the faith we placed in her, after falling in love with her debut release and her live performances, was well-given. (Secret City Records, www.secretcityrecords.com) Jenny Henkelman

Amelia Curran

By Whitney Light
“My songs are sad to the point where we joke about it all the time,” Amelia Curran says only half in jest. At the Winnipeg Folk Festival, where this interview happened, the Newfoundland native and Halifax-based singer-songwriter performed in a workshop called “Woe is Me” with some kindred musicians strumming tunes about heartbreak and hard luck. Whether she’s playing alone or with a five-piece band, Curran’s songs compellingly mix a comfy guitar with her seasoned and deliberate voice. A talented and practised creative writer, she released her first album, Barricade, in 2000 and her most recent, War Brides, received wide critical acclaim. Now Hunter Hunter, her second album with Six Shooter Records, is ready for release this September. Continue reading “Amelia Curran”

Del Barber

By Jonathan Dyck
“I’ve always thought of Winnipeg as a place that has distinct boundaries, like you get with the Perimeter Highway,” Del Barber says, sipping a drink at popular Wolseley watering hole Cousin’s. Last May, Barber sold out his album release party for his debut, Where the City Ends, at the Park Theatre. Since its release, Barber and his backing band have been playing local gigs and, most recently, Barber set out on his own for his first tour north of the border. Continue reading “Del Barber”

The Other Brothers

By Michael Elves
Released this spring, Points of View is a collaboration between Winnipeg singer-songwriters Chris Neufeld and Donovan Giesbrecht, who together are the Other Brothers. It’s a subtle, gorgeous collection of folk tunes in the vein of Simon & Garfunkel. Unlike that famous duo, however, Neufeld and Giesbrecht are happy to talk to each other. But to really capture their points of view, Stylus asked each musician the exact same questions, separately, and the results, while not quite Rashomonesque, reveal some key differences between them, including the fact that one brother is a little more verbose than the other. Continue reading “The Other Brothers”

Ingrid Gatin

By Jenny Henkelman

Ingrid Gatin’s got a piano, an accordion, and a tear-jerkingly beautiful voice. All of these things are perfectly suited to the average living room recital or concert at the café down the street. But something in Ingrid Gatin keeps pulling her out of her comfy Wolseley environs. To a cabin in the Saskatchewan woods; to a train crossing the lonely stretches of Northern Ontario; to a transformed gallery space in the Exchange.
Gatin’s first migration took place when her family moved from small-town Saskatchewan to Brandon, where  started up in the musical way early. She’s studied piano since age four, and says she’s always benefited from a “hugely musical” family. “There’s always singing and music playing going on on both sides of my family,” she says. “I was always involved with choirs. A good, wholesome music upbringing.”
With that groundwork laid, Gatin was soon sucked into the music scene in Winnipeg when she moved here after high school two and a half years ago. Her friend Ida Sawabe played stand-up bass in a bluegrass band, and soon dragged Gatin along to practice. “They gave me a mandolin and they said, ‘Here’s how you play C and G and D. There, you know every bluegrass song!’ Ting, ting, ting! And then I was in a bluegrass band, the Magnificent Sevens.” Continue reading “Ingrid Gatin”