Saturday, 16 February 2013

Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble - Rise Borealis Records

For this, Annabelle Chvostek’s second post-Wailin Jennys studio release, the highly acclaimed Canadian roots artist has rolled back the years to explore the world of protest and activism. In this current age of change, first world rebellion may be only on a small scale but this recording has the potential to put Annabelle at the cultural forefront of any escalation. Over the duration of the near hour-long length of this album, given the evocative title RISE, she has written and interpreted a diverse collection of anthemic, analytical and deep rooted tracks that intersperse well with a couple of jaunty numbers which result in a raising of the levels of optimism and spirit.

Right from the mandolin-led strong scene setting opener ‘End of the Road’ to the languid folk style reggae cover of Peter Tosh’s ‘Equal Rights’ that escorts you through the exit door, the album is populated by endless significant catchy chorus hooks in the fine tradition of protest folk. This is further exemplified by the repeated emotion laced questioning in the title lyrics of ‘Do You Think You’re Right’ a song written about the documentary Jesus Camp. Mandolin and memorable chorus line are also key components of the title track ‘Rise’ a song written about a local Montreal issue, a city where the Toronto born and raised artist has been periodically based.

The artist title credited to this release is the Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble and on this project the gathering was enhanced by two Canadian artists with a presence in Britain, namely Oh Susanna and David Celia. For the tour planned to coincide with the album’s UK release, Annabelle’s exquisite fiddle playing and emotional vocal skills will be joined by Jeremie Jones on double bass and Tony Spina on drums/percussion. This Don Kerr-produced album also benefitted from the contribution of veteran Canadian folk/rock guitarist Bruce Cockburn.

Photo by Heather Pollock
While this lengthy album does have a trio of testing tracks in the middle namely the fiddle influenced ‘Baby Sleep ‘till Sturovo’, ‘All Have Some’ and the accordion jazz infused ‘The Will of How’, there is often a surprise around the corner to maintain your attention. ‘Fox Tail’ lightens the mood enormously in a more traditional style. The same applies to ‘Ona (in Toronto I Get More Hugs in Montreal I Get More Kisses)’, a song where the bracketed title contrasts the effects of Canadian hospitality with their southern neighbours by making  a reference to getting crazy in New York.

Each listen of this album rotates a stand out track but ultimately you can’t do any better than the poet styled narration qualities of ‘G20 Song’ which in great detail gives an account of the protest surrounding the world’s leaders Toronto summit in 2010. The passion and anger from Annabelle is evident in admirable portions and this is a track surely earmarked for extended airplay.

This has been a challenging project for Annabelle but the ultimate success of creating a piece of ingrained and addictive music has meant that this album is an essential addition to the collection of any fervent follower of Canadian roots music. Culture has always been at the heart of protest and in 2013 RISE is recorded proof of this theory still being relevant. 

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