We absolutely loved “Ingrained” by Carly Dow at Riot Towers earlier this year, so we were double plus pleased when Carly was able to contribute to High Fives this year with (apologies to Julie Andrews) a few of her favourite things. And we’re looking forward to seeing her in the New Year. Almost forgot to mention that Carly Dow is the only contributor to include a video of herself playing live in a boat on The Yukon.
As a completely indecisive person, it’s been terribly difficult trying to narrow down a high five list for the entire year – but here we go! I’ve created a mishmash list of *some* of my favourite things that made this year so special.
Favourite New Music Discovery
Big Thief. I have been listening to their debut album, “Masterpiece”, non-stop since first hearing the track “Paul”. This music is grungy, emotive and beautiful. It’s a sad party, and we’re all invited! I love the intelligent and thoughtful lyrics, the gorgeous melodies, and the heartbreaking delivery of Adrianne Lenker’s voice.
This isn’t really a 2016 high five, if I’m completely honest. It’s an all-time forever and ever favourite. This little hole-in-the-wall bar in Winnipeg, MB (smack-dab in the heart of Canada) is a place you can count on for being full of good music and good people, every night that it is open. I’ve had some of the best shows of my life at Times, and have seen even more from the audience, beer in hand and smile on face.
15-Day Canoe Trip on the Yukon River. I was so fortunate to be accepted as 1 of 10 artists to participate in the Canadian Wilderness Artist Residency over the summer, which took place in the Yukon Territory. A portion of the residency involved a long paddle journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City through the Yukon wilderness, which was an incredibly humbling and beautiful experience. Here’s a video of me playing banjo while floating down the river in a canoe, if you want a peek into what the trip was like:
Joel Plaskett at the Summer Lights Festival in Brandon, MB. I haven’t swooned this hard since I was 18. Seriously. I know about Joel Plaskett (everyone in Canada does), but I had never seen him live before. An intimate, solo performance on an outdoor stage in the summer – it was freaking magical and I left the concert with a sore face from smiling. What a charming fella!
Madeleine Roger. Ok, I have a LOT of favourite people. But Madeleine in particular is an absolute doll, and has been there for me through some of the best and worst parts of the year. She is a spectacularly lovely human, and lights up every space she is in. She is also a fantastic songwriter, and you can check out her project Roger Roger with her equally lovely brother, Lucas. We had our fair share of adventures together this year with two tours out to the Canadian West Coast.
Carly Dow’s first solo album, “Ingrained” is one of those that grabs your attention right from the start. The opening song “Olive Branch” is a cappella apart from a kick drum and handclap combination which are just enough to keep the musical pulse going. It pulls together elements of spirituals and Native American music with a feminist theme and some gorgeous vocal arrangements. It’s beautiful and you know that anything following such an adventurous opening has to be worth hearing. Musically the arrangements are generally minimalist with a few exceptions, including the jaunty country of “Too Much to Go Back”, the blues of “This Dress” and the ominously jazzy melancholy of “Down This Road”.
Across the album the musical stylings are unusual, with banjo, lap steel and a thudding kick drum supplying the backdrop for “Soil to Dust” while the plaintive “Casanova” works perfectly with just a rhythmic acoustic guitar and electric blues harmonica. Each song has an interesting and innovative arrangement, generally avoiding the guitar, bass and drums format that’s designed to enhance the lyrical feel and allow Carly’s powerful but achingly vulnerable vocals (with maybe just a hint of k.d. lang) sit right at the front of the mix.
The album has a strong sense of Carly’s Manitoba roots, with references to the cold winters, harbours, frost and prairies creating a strong sense of place, woven into the fabric of love, loss, relationships, leavetakings and homecomings. “This Dress” serves up a perfect mix of these ingredients, opening with an eighteen hour journey and taking in love, the feeling of coming home and the attachment we have to that special place: ‘The feel of this place sticks to your skin, Makes you feel naked when you leave again, I’m like a newborn into the world, Each time I leave home.’ “Down this Road” combines themes of love and death against a laid-back jazz arrangement, which may not sound like a bundle of laughs, but the insanely catchy vocal refrain embeds the song in your brain and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Ingrained” is a deeply moving and affecting piece of work combining powerful well-crafted lyrics with innovative arrangements to create a set of songs that are melancholy and memorable, but ultimately life-affirming.
“Ingrained” is out now and available at Bandcamp.