Shawna Caspi – Forest Fire
Self Released – 2017
Forest Fire is Toronto-based artist-turned singer-songwriter (she still paints, including the album cover) Shawna Caspi’s fourth album, but only my first encounter. I was immediately taken with the opening number, the gently rippling bluegrass-tinged, fiddle accompanied Love in a Moving Van, a clever metaphor about sustaining a relationship (“Pack it to the edges with as much as we can. Anything we leave behind, we’ll build again”). Likewise, the gypsy guitar coloured and bluesily fingerpicked Devil’s Rolling Pin is a celebration of the power of live music to lift the spirits after the 9-5 slog.
What really reeled me in, however, was when I got to the third track, Brave Parade, a Lynn Miles cover written and delivered firmly in the mode of Janis Ian’s Stars and Between The Lines albums. It’s one of two covers, the other being her rather fine old-timey version of that old Patti Page chestnut, Tennessee Waltz, though you have to be nimble on the feet to keep up with the tempo here.
The other songs, generally about breaking things down and building them back up again, are all self-penned, particularly Never Enough, a song about a mother going to church to pray for her wayward son (“But those words can’t bury the beast. He’s still gonna come out bear his teeth”) and, another Ian echo, the strings-laced slow sway of Oleaster about the cycles of life (“Bear in mind all that came before. How the stems rose from the ashes to be ashes once more”).
Again with fiddle prominent, the Appalachian-flavoured Take This Mountain is another number about looking to overcome the odds and obstacles life throws your way , while the album ends with The Love I Know, backed by piano with Alyssa Wright providing cello on a bittersweet regret about never taking the chances and faced with ending up along as, still hoping that love might yet still come calling, she sings “all I’ve got is patience and this calendar of dates. And no one else in the room.”
Having made the acquaintance, I’ll be making a point of listening out for more from her in the future. I would recommend you do likewise.
Photo Credit: Ian Sinclair