Holding Patterns, the follow-up to Amanda Rheaume‘s 2013 Keep A Fire again mines the Ottawa-born Aboriginal-Canadian’s roots and heritage, but this time also addresses the end of a long-term relationship. The former is first to be found on the mid-tempo folksy The Day The Mountain Fell, which, introduced by what I assume to be a news recording from the time, recalls the true story of a second cousin who, as a baby in 1950, survived a landslide near Mount Hayes in British Columbia when the rock flow lifted her crib above the debris.
She learned the story from her grandfather who was also the source for a rocky Wolf Of Time, the phrase an image he involved to remind people to get on with their dreams, a carpe diem theme reflected in the urgent driving rhythm while the song itself was written in the wake of the death of close friend and collaborator Fraser Holmes.
The album opens with Get To The Part, a number that, with its infectious chorus and driving beat, clearly marks her move into radio friendly roots rock while, in turn, Mind Over Matter (co-penned by Holmes) is dreamy, airy folk-pop with echoes of early Joni Mitchell to the clear purity of her voice.
The first of the songs clearly born from upheavals in her personal life, the uptempo soft-rock Time To Land reflects on repeating the same relationship patterns over and over expecting them to somehow change while the funky blues Blood From A Stone with its dirty prowling guitar riff and Steve Mariner on harmonica is her kiss-off track as she sings “you’ve gone and crossed my last nerve.” She’s in a less acrimonious frame of mind on the slow swaying, pedal steel streaked Dead Horse, the title a reference to not trying to keep a relationship together when it’s obviously not working, the lyrics acknowledging both share the blame but that it’s time to move on, ruefully adding “you finally got your song”.
Letting go of the past and moving on also informs the superb spare reflective piano ballad All That You Need , Rheaume’s voice soaring as she talks about not looking back (“let it go and let it lie”), pedal steel again adding to the emotional tone. That positivity spills out all over the buoyant This Time Around where what would seem to be the promise of a new love has her “writing songs till the cows come home”.
The album closes on a particular highlight with On Disappearing, written by album multi-instrumentalist and producer Jim Bryson and a rumination on how all things fade away, although I suspect he’s more talking about the hurt of heartache rather than the dark nihilism it would otherwise suggest.
However, co-penned wth Bryson, the track at the heart of the album is Red Dress, a waltz time folksy strum with twangy guitar on which she’s joined by Juno Humanitarian Award winner Chantal Kreviazuk. It was inspired by the case of Cindy Gladue, a 36-year-old aboriginal mother of three sex worker who, in 2011, bled to death from a cut in her vagina while the man accused of her murder, Ontario trucker Bradley Barton slept in the nearby bed.
Although medical evidence suggested a sharp object had been involved, the defence argued the wound was caused by rough sex and Gladue’s dissected body part was even brought into court on a paper towel as evidence. Barton was acquitted of any crime, sparking protests at both the verdict and the disrespect shown to the victim who was, essentially blamed for her own death, a “woman of no worth” as the lyric has it. While it doesn’t speak directly about the case, it serves as a powerful statement about the current crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a result of what she and others see as Canada’s cultural genocide. Funds from the single went to the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Safety and Violence Prevention Program. It also happens to be a terrific song on a terrific album.
UK Tour 2017
JAN 11 – No. 8 Café, Launceston
JAN 12 – The Wheelwright Inn, Colyford
JAN 13 – Midwinter Fest, Torquay
JAN 14 – The Con Club, Lewes
JAN 15 – The Black Box Festival, Belfast
JAN 17 – Green Note, London
JAN 19 – Café No. 9, Sheffield
JAN 20 – Haile Village Hall, Copeland
JAN 21 – Wild Zucchini, Cockermouth
JAN 23 – Soundhouse at The Traverse, Edinburgh
JAN 24 – Cottingham, East Yorkshire, The Back Room (co-headline with Dennis Ellsworth)
JAN 27 – Newbald House Concert, North Newbald
JAN 28 – The Convent, Stroud
JAN 29 – Marnhull Village Hall, Marnhull
JAN 31 – The Bicycle Shop, Norwich
FEB 01 – Americana Fest UK, London
FEB 03 – St. George’s Hall, Bewdley
FEB 04 – Kirton-In-Lindsey Town Hall, Gainsborough
Holding Patterns is released on 13 January via Republic of Music