The wealth of Canadian singer-song writing artists who regularly tour the UK certainly add a perceptive richness to the local live music scene. The lyrics, themes, stories and general musical prowess have a captivating aura to ensure any investment of money or time in acquainting yourself with their art form is more than adequately rewarded. Sitting very comfortably amongst the latest crop of exporting Canadian talent is Annabelle Chvostek who has returned to our shores once again to promote her latest release RISE. Having giving this record a favourable review nearly a year ago, I can gladly report that the live show is more than an equal to her impressive recorded output.
Many will recall Annabelle as part of the esteemed folk trio the Wailin Jennies but in the last few years she has concentrated on producing work as a solo artist albeit with many contributing accompaniments. The material for this evening’s twin sets was almost entirely drawn from her brace of post-Jennies recordings with virtually all the tracks off RISE making an appearance. The exception was the popular song ‘Devil’s Paintbrush Road’ which Annabelle contributed to the Jennies’ album FIRECRACKER.
Annabelle had added the name Ensemble to the credits of RISE to reflect those who helped on the recording and for this visit to the UK she was joined by Jeremie Jones on acoustic bass and Tony Spina on drums. The presence of this rhythm section augmented the song delivery and sublimely supplemented the guitar, fiddle and mandolin playing of Annabelle. The sound system was particularly good for a multi-functional venue and those present were certainly being exposed to high class music.
As we have become accustomed to, the stories, thoughts and shared experiences of a singer-songwriter was an integral part of the show. Annabelle doesn’t shy away from her political leanings on RISE and the background to the tracks ‘G20’, ‘End of the Road’ and ‘Rise’ were explained in clear detail. We learned about the Slovakian origins of her surname as part of the introduction to ‘Baby Sleep ‘Till Sturovo’, a song about the Danube flooding, and the track ‘Sioux’ gave us a flavour of travelling into the northern areas of Canada. To bring the subject a little closer to home ‘Hartland Quay’ drew its inspiration from the Devon landmark of the same name and climate contrasts between the UK and her Canadian homeland were a recurring feature.
Hailing from the city of Toronto, Annabelle wasted no time in introducing her hometown and involving the audience in the opening sing along to ‘Ona’ with the catchy chorus “in Toronto I get more hugs, in Montreal I get more kisses, in New York I get crazy, crazy”. The engaging side of Annabelle’s personality encouraged further outbreaks of participation, particularly the call and response number ‘I Left My Brain’, from those present which included local residents of Broseley and some drawn from further afield to specifically see the artist. The enthusiastic promotion has developed a neat niche of bringing high quality original music to a community not usually the domain of touring artists. This growing trend really taps into the ideals of genres such as country, folk and roots which historically have reached out to the people.
While Annabelle predominantly focusses on her own material, she added to this evening’s set a couple of covers which have both been recorded on her previous albums. She mourned the recent loss of Lou Reed with a version of ‘Some Kinda Love’ taken from RISE and from the RESILIENCE album the Ella Jenkins song ‘Racing with the Sun’. This 2008 album also provided a couple of the evening’s more subtle and thoughtful numbers ‘Resilience’ and ‘Nashville’ both possessing an inviting appeal.