Sarah Jane Scouten – When The Bloom Falls From The Rose
Light Organ Records – 16 June 2017
A native of British Columbia, Sarah Jane Scouten is another sterling example of the top grade Americana coming out of Canada. Steeped in old time country and Canadian folk-roots, due in no small part on being raised on a diet of Hank Williams and Stan Rogers, and blessed with a twangsome voice that can do both pure and sweet and raw and gritty, the self-penned songs here mostly revolve around bruised or broken relationships.
When The Bloom Falls From The Rose opens in sadness with the slow waltzing Acre of Shells, pedal steel weeping in the background as Scouten conjures thoughts of Iris DeMent via Patsy Cline as she sings “how could I ever love somebody else when I know that you’re in the world.”
But then she catches you off-guard with Bang Bang, a slap bass slap of rockabilly (which premiered on Folk Radio UK) before heading down the old school honky tonk to dance with the ghost of George Jone on the warbling Every Song I Sing.
There’s another stylistic switch for Poland, an Appalachian-flavoured, mist swirled ballad that’s essentially about forever writing songs to an unattainable love (“his heart’s an inconvenience, and he’s sworn to live alone”) that features the striking line “if you were the king of Poland I’d be the consort of the damned.”
The folk-rock title track’s one of the more musically uptempo numbers, the drums laying down a steady beat, banjo and flourishes of fiddle and electric guitar adding to the momentum of a song that seems to subscribe to the Neil Young maxim about it being better to burn out than fade away.
As I say, there’s a strong emphasis on various shades of old school country here, thus in short order you get the sprightly vo-de-oh-vo styled swing of Paul with its clicking drumsticks, the Andrews Sisters 40s vibe of Coupe de Ville Rag featuring clarinet and accordion and the classic honky tonk waltz-time heartache Man In Love.
There are two covers tucked away in the middle of the album, the traditional campfire cowboy waltzer Where The Ghost River Flows and, a particular highlight, the sparse, spooked and brooding Britannia Mine, a 60s folk protest number written by Paddy Graber, a miner involved in the 1965 industrial dispute and lockout in British Columbia, set to the Irish rebel tune Skibbereen.
It’s testament to the authenticity of her own writing that there’s a seamless flow between them, the accordion-accompanied shanty waltzing Rosehips For Scurvy, a particularly dark lyric dealing with death and depression, sounding as though it could have been sung a century ago.
It sounds a thematically similar note on the closing track, the acoustic rootsy folk of the metaphorically-titled Crack In The Windshield, musically gentle but with a heartrending lyrics about the younger brother the narrator looks up to, who feels “there’s nothing worth holding on to”, but for whom she would “crack the world if it meant letting your light in.” Long may she blossom.
Sarah Jane Scouten 2017 UK Tour
Tuesday 3rd October – Cramlington Folk Club, Cramlington
Wednesday 4th October – Woodend Creative, Scarborough
Thursday 5th October – Black Swan Folk Club, York
Saturday 7th October – Music @ Craigie Folk Club, Scotland
Wednesday 11th October – Running Horse, Nottingham
Thursday 12th October – Crail Folk Club, Fife
Saturday 14th October – Wychwood Folk Club, Oxon
Sunday 15th October – Nest Collective, London
Tuesday 17th October – Leith Folk Club, Leith
Saturday 21st October – Cellar Bar, Cardigan
Photo Credit: Jen Squires