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Living under a skyline so wide open that you can see the horizon shimmer a thousand miles in the distance has changed Keri Latimer.
Best known for her four albums with Nathan, the Juno award-winning artist doesn’t like the moss to grow under her feet. When not touring or recording with Nathan, she’s released a solo album, and has recorded for television, installation and short films, most notably for her soundtrack contributions for Courtney Hunt’s Oscar nominated, ‘Frozen River’ in 2008 and theremin parts for Guy Maddin’s short film ‘Only Dream Things’ in 2012.
For her latest endeavor, ‘Leaf Rapids’, she has collaborated with her husband Devin Latimer, who also plays bass with Nathan, to explore new musical ideas that incorporate the feeling of open space that has fascinated her since moving to the prairie town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. She explains,“ There is less mystery to a song for me when every space is filled. I like for the notes to linger for a while and suggest things.” To help with this, Latimer reached out to Steve Dawson, the legendary Canadian roots musician and producer who had recently relocated to Nashville. “Even though these songs offer a continuation of my songwriting approach with Nathan, I wanted to move outside of my comfort zone and Steve really helped with that.” Latimer’s relationship with Dawson goes back to the days when she was touring with Nathan and Steve was playing with Zubot and Dawson. They had played workshops together at festivals, but it wasn’t’ until they hit it off at a SOCAN songwriting circle in Calgary a few years ago that they discussed collaborating on some of her new music.
Latimer continues, “For me, this whole album has been about trust and learning to let go, which is hard because I’ve been a control freak for my whole life. I had a conscious intention with this record to write the songs and hand them over to Steve so that I had no control over anything but the lyrics and melodies. It’s not something I do easily, but I think he really got what I was trying to do. I like to think that we got each other. “Knowing that Dawson likes to work spontaneously (and that there may not be a second chance to get it right), Latimer channeled all the unhurried, spacious atmospherics suggested by her lyrics to deliver the most heartfelt vocal performances of her career. The twelve songs that came out of the session sound quite unlike anything else Dawson has produced as he and Latimer ‘found a middle ground between his usual nearly live recordings and the painstaking production techniques that I usually follow.”
The songs on ‘Lucky Stars’ range from catchy country tunes like ‘Gravity’ to more reflective numbers like the gorgeous ‘Galaxie 500’ and to masterful works like the moody and atmospheric ‘Vulture’, which Latimer wrote as an homage to the graceful black birds that were constantly soaring above her on a recent trip to Cuba. The title track, ‘Lucky Stars’ is especially important for Latimer who revealed that it was written for her husband’s mother who lives in a nursing home. “She fell in love when she was a young woman, but her husband died very early and she never wanted to meet anyone else. The song describes how she is simply and gracefully waiting to be reunited with him.” ‘Lucky Stars’ also showcases Keri’s flair with the theremin. Often considered a gimmick, Latimer’s serious approach to the instrument takes it out of science fiction territory to make it an indispensable component of Leaf Rapids’ sound. The theremin also makes an appearance on their spontaneous version of David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and is one of ‘Lucky Stars’ many highlights. Featuring some truly stellar guitar work from Dawson, Leaf Rapids’ interpretation of this classic tune proves that no matter how many times you’ve heard it, a truly great song never gets old.
‘Lucky Stars’ is one of those rare albums that can only come to light when a small group of seasoned players get together to work intuitively and create music from the heart. Listening to Keri on guitar and theremin and Devin on bass while Steve works his magic on most everything else except for drums – ably played throughout by Gary Craig - is like having a fireside seat at a tiny house concert. Intimate and assured, ‘Lucky Stars’ will certainly be one of 2015’s musical highlights. Don’t you dare miss it!