A sweet little gem showcasing some of the finest acoustic musicians Canada currently...
Sue Keogh 2004
Away from the plastic angst of Avril Lavigne, the wrinkly rock of Bryan Adams and Las Vegas stylings of Celine Dion, exciting things have been happening in the Canadian acoustic music scene. The likes of the Be Good Tanyas, Oh Susanna and Corb Lund are all doing different things with folk and country that you just don't find south of the border.
The live scene over there is very active, but the geography doesn't make touring easy. You have to be very talented and passionate about your craft to make it. What has developed is a relatively small community of extremely talented artists who bump into each other every few thousand miles or so and develop a close bond.
It's reflected here in the Po' Girl collective, which comprises a trio of young Canadians joined by as many mates as they could cram into the Vancouver studio. Multi-instrumentalists all three, they brought to the project a very diverse mix of musical experience and had a real autonomy over their sound. The name familiar on these shores is guitarist and banjo player Trish Klein, who has spent the last few years treading the folk festival boards with Radio 2 favourites The Be Good Tanyas. She's joined by Diona Davies, a soundtrack composer, classically trained pianist and fiddle player influenced by country, punk and funk, and soulful vocalist Alison Russell, who's got everything from gypsy swing, samba and folk on her CV and here throws a bit of clarinet and pennywhistle into the pot.
Amongst the special guests, you'll find folk pair Chris Brown and Kate Fenner, the other two Be Good Tanyas (any excuse to put off recording that difficult third album), and cult folkie Ani DiFranco.
For an album with so many people involved it's a simple and uncluttered little beast which will sit alongside your Hem, She Haw and Natalie Merchant records very happily. Those who love the Tanyas' harmonies and mellow banjo rolls but were put off by the band's quirkiness will find something more consistent here.
And if the name Po' Girl makes you expect something scratchy and old-timey, then look for the beatbox and spoken word contributions of performance poet CR Avery, which add a contemporary dimension to the bed of lush, sweet and sweeping folk. The oft-told tale of a young girl breaking free and leaving home is revived , but in Po' Girl's version, "Praire Girl Gone", the protagonist moves to a punk rock house and watches her friends, "slip away into a drug drenched daze" (talking of which, listen out for the tripped out interview with a rock in a stone circle which is snuck at the end of the album).
This isa sweet little gem showcasing some of the finest acoustic musicians Canada currently has to offer. Try and catch them on their UK tour this autumn -it'll be the most quietly charming gig you'll enjoy all year.