“Tell me Hank, what was it like in your day?” Not much different from McRae’s new album by the sounds of it..Since departing from Canadian folk rock outfit, “Spirit of the West”, Vancouver-based Linda McRae has been gathering accolades for creating songs as near as darn it to Old Time Country gurus Hank Williams, Peggy Lee and other artists of that ilk and calibre. Her previous critically acclaimed work includes collaborations and appearances galore from heavy weights such as The Tragically Hip, Richard Bell (The Band), and Blue Rodeo. McRae’s new album, “Carve it to the Heart”, is no doubt set to continue along this vein, it really is marvellous. Although McRae’s songs are traditional in spirit, they have the occasional contemporary twist, and they retain the beautiful timeless quality that you would get with, for example, the music of Hank Williams, most notably in songs like the soporific/romantic “Before the Hereafter” and the delightful “Living in the Past With You”. Saying that, McRae’s songs certainly aren’t all slow n sleepy, with many of the tracks bursting into something altogether more edgy. Take the Gillian Welch-esque “How Can I Bring Her Back?”, a raw up-tempo number about deep loss that smacks of Southern Gothic, or the simply beautiful “I’ll Watch Your Love Light Shine”, a genuine tear-jerker if ever there was one. Musically, McRae and band mates - Nova Devonie (accordion, vocals), Stephen Nikleva (guitar, mandolin), Cousin Harley (upright bass), Fred Eaglesmith (washboard) and Gary Fjellgaard (harmony vocals) – often make great use of space, leaving plenty of room for McRae’s deep, comforting vocals to roll along with the accompanying accordions and mandolins, conveying McRae’s great stories mixed with the right elements of humour, compassion, hurt, love and loss. As an album, “Carve it to the Heart” is versatile, musically excellent, and above all a bloody good listen. Honestly, you really couldn’t ask for more.
Date review added: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
-Sian Claire Owen