Accompanied by just a hint of drums, minimal upright bass and a fiddle solo towards the end, Dreamer suggests that the Canadian singer Ana Egge’s self-produced eighth album ‘Bright Shadow’ might see her exploring jazzier territories. However, it proves to be just a one-off, the remainder of the album nestling comfortably in her familiar rootsy, country-shaded folk, headed up by the Flat Top Guitar in which the instrument tells about how it used to be regularly played at dance halls and county fairs by a country band called the Westerners. It now gathers dust in the corner, occasionally picked up when the neighbours’ kids come over. It’s a clever metaphorical song about being put to pasture when you still have things to offer and serves to underscore Egge’s lyrical abilities.
The album was recorded in collaboration with Maya De Vitry (fiddle, banjo, vocals), Charles Muench (upright bass, vocals), and Oliver Craven (mandolin, fiddle, slide guitar, vocals) , better known as The Stray Birds, who provide sympathetic and inevitably stylish backing to her lived-in but still sweet vocals.
Although Jenny Run Away is a sprightly trad-hued bluegrass-folk jog, the majority of the material is more subdued and melancholic. Since the album was recorded Egge gave birth to a daughter and her mother passed away. She says that the songs on the album mirror these intense and formative life changes. On Fifth Of July we find childhood memories embraced, whilst the fiddle-etched ache to Maps of the Moon and the tender lullaby Rock Me (Divine Mother) themes on how we escape from ourselves and find solace and healing in our dreams are strong. The same theme is explored on the dappled banjo title track on which The Stray Birds figure prominently.
Everything here is top quality, but two numbers in particular warrant particular mention. Dolly Parton’s Wildflower is given an old-fashioned, banjo accompanied cabin parlour feel, while, featuring just slide guitar and De Vitry’s harmonies, the album closes with The Ballad of Jean Genet. The latter is a tribute to the French poet who overcame a difficult upbringing. Jean was the son of a prostitute and he was imprisoned several times for being a thief. He also battled against homophobia to become one of France’s most celebrated writers. It’s an understated, but terrific body of work that should do much to reinvigorate Egge’s career and exposure.
Review by: Mike Davies
Bright Shadow is Out Now