Only last summer, I belatedly discovered this Canadian trio’s excellent third album May, which by then was close on a year old; so I profoundly regretted having missed out on their 2014 UK tour. I’ve kinda made up for that by getting hold of their latest offering Chasing The Sun just as soon as I heard of its release. And I’m glad to report that it’s every bit as good, with further unassuming displays of typically confident songwriting and intuitive musicianship of the exact correct sensibility for their chosen musical idiom – which in this case is a captivating and vital blend of old-time, bluegrass and folk music.
Each member of the trio is a charismatic solo singer in her own right (tho’ not necessarily in the bluegrass field originally), but when they combine in harmony the bar is sure raised, and the softly passionate a cappella lament of Leaving (one of a number of tracks penned by the group’s fiddle player Miriam Sonstenes – the others, perhaps unbelievably, are instrumentals!) is a definite disc standout: it sure stopped me in my tracks. Original songwriting (and tunesmithery) is increasingly the cornerstone of The Sweet Lowdown’s music; this new record finds guitarist Amanda Blied contributing three songs, and banjoist Shanti Bremer a further three songs and a tune, the remaining track being a cover of The Rain by the group’s friend Zane Parker.
Highlight tracks? Perhaps The Birds And The Bees (a joyous celebration of spring and such matters), the brooding, foreboding Fallout (a commentary on the legacy of the 2012 Fukushima nuclear disaster), the fancy-free Road Song, and almost any one of the disc’s four spiritful instrumental outings (probably April 29th, or the ebullient breakdown-and-jigs medley). The sheer exuberance of the trio’s playing is infectious albeit expertly controlled, and you rarely feel the need for any further embellishment; even so, they do bring in some musician friends very occasionally, including Sam Howard who does sterling duty on upright bass for around half of the album’s tracks. Digipack presentation and design/artwork are most appealing too, making the whole product eminently desirable.
Don’t hesitate to catch The Sweet Lowdown live when they next get over here – in the meantime, this new album will keep your CD machine well occupied and very likely locked on repeat play.
Review by: David Kidman
Photo Credit: Ashli Akins