I met singer-songwriter Bonnie Ste-Croix at the 2010 Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF) conference in Ottawa where she told me about an interesting project she had in the works. She was travelling to each of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories and recording a song there with guest musicians from each locale. It was a highly ambitious project, to say the least, for an independent musician.
Bonnie is a thoroughly Canadian girl. She grew up in the Gaspé, has since lived in Montreal, Banff, Vancouver and, now, Halifax, and, as she sings in the album’s title track, regards the entire country – and its seasons and customs – as home. And, in her various collaborators from west to east and north to south, she’s found kindred musical spirits.
The album’s strongest tracks include the fore-mentioned “Canadian Girl,” recorded in Halifax with fiddler Natalie MacMaster and singer Laura Smith; “Front Porch Song,” recorded in Toronto with Stephen Fearing playing the Six String Nation Guitar that Jowi Taylor has been bringing around the country over the past five years and singers Kate Reid and Lynne Hanson, a catchy, slice-of-life-in-the-neighbourhood tune; “On Était Bien,” featuring the members of Dentdelion and Dale Boyle, which sounds like a Quebec folksong; “If I Could Sail,” recorded in St. John’s with The Once, a lament for a lover at sea; and “October Song,” a lovely tribute to the Canadian autumn featuring fiddler and harmony vocalist Shari Ulrich and fiddler Julia Graff (Shari’s daughter).
Each of the guest musicians brings something special to the songs they contributed to. And while many of the songs are not lyrically or stylistically specific to the places they were recorded, Bonnie has succeeded gloriously in creating a musical tribute to Canada and in recognizing there are excellent and creative musicians and singers in every part of the country.