Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald
WINNIPEG’S Cara Luft has had a bad case of wanderlust since the release of her CD The Light Fantastic, criss-crossing the country and heading overseas with James Keelaghan on a U.K. jaunt.
The record even begins with There’s a Train, a bittersweet ode to hitting the road. But the former member of acclaimed folk trio the Wailin’ Jennys says she really doesn’t mind not spending much time in her home base.
"We joke and call it a motivating city to live in, because if you spend the whole year there it’ll drive you bonkers," says Calgary-born Luft, who makes her first trip out East this week since a brief visit with the Wailin’ Jennys to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.
"It’s an extreme city in terms of weather, but also it’s just so far away from everything. It’s a great city to be based in, 24 hours away from Vancouver or Toronto, but it doesn’t take long for me to get itchy feet. These days it seems like I’m away 80 per cent of the time anyway, so it always feels good to touch down at home."
Those itchy feet will cover a fair bit of ground over the next week, starting on Friday in Petite Riviere as part of the Little River Folk concert series. On Sunday Luft is at the Mersey House in Liverpool, followed by shows at Stayner’s Wharf in Halifax on Wednesday, the Spitfire in Windsor on Thursday, Nov. 8, Coldbrook for the Borden Street Concert Series on Friday, Nov. 9 and at the Union Street Cafe in Berwick on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Luft couldn’t even stay in one place while making The Light Fantastic, which was recorded in Winnipeg, mixed in Vancouver and mastered in Toronto. The producer’s chair was filled by 54-40 frontman Neil Osborne, with instrumental accompaniment by Spirit of the West’s Hugh McMillan, who also joins Luft for her Maritime dates.
"We were contemplating recording at Neil’s house in Vancouver, but he has a dog and a cat, and I’m allergic to both, so it would suck to be sneezing in the middle of every take," laughs Luft. "So I brought them to Winnipeg to a studio that I felt comfortable and at home in, and it was a really positive experience.
"My Jennys recording experiences were quite stressful, because they were very much perfection-oriented, doing 25 takes until you got it perfect. Neil’s philosophy was the opposite; he felt that after three takes you really start to lose the energy and the momentum and the spark behind the song."
There is certainly a spontaneous feeling about The Light Fantastic, with Luft’s acoustic roots frequently joining forces with her inner rocker. She says Osborne pushed her past her comfort zone and helped her explore new areas of self-expression that might not have happened without his prompting.
"He really understands the importance of a song, so a folk-roots record wasn’t too much of a stretch for him . . . he has a deep respect for roots music and songwriters, and really likes acoustic music.
"But because of his rock background, he could see that I really loved rock music too, and really encouraged me to express that in the recording. When we were trying to decide who would play the electric guitar parts, Neil was adamant: ‘Cara, I’m putting my foot down, you have the spirit of Jimmy Page! You are playing every electric guitar part on this record!’ "
And in the spirit of Neil Young and Willie Nelson, there’s a benefit event titled Musicians For Farmers at the North Street Church on Saturday at 6 p.m., with music, comedy and vegetable puppets (or as I like to call them, Vuppets) in aid of Heliotrust.
Working for farmland conservation, biodiversity, sustainable farming practices, and conserving and imparting rural wisdom, you can find out more about Heliotrust at www.heliotrust.ca.
This all-ages event will feature performances by the Raging Grannies, members of the Halifax comedy troupe Picnicface, plus a bumper crop of musicians including the Smokin’ Contraband, John Dalton and Friends, Oh Dinah, Michael Peter Schimp, Geoff Kennedy, Niki Veltmeyer and Mary-Grace Koile.
The $15 admission includes a meal from Terroir Local Source Catering (BYO cutlery and cups for hot cider). Farmers get in for free.