Saturday, April 6, 2013

Laura Smith – Everything is Moving

Everything is Moving
Borealis Records

Laura Smith’s recordings were staples of the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio program in the 1990s. Her re-imagined and rewritten version of the traditional “My Bonny” was a perennial request and she was my guest on the show in 1997 when she released It’s a Personal Thing, which turned out to be the last album she would release for 16 years.

A series of three unfortunate accidents led to years of debilitating pain and dependence on prescription narcotics which took control of her life. A moving CBC Radio documentary, The Blues & I – The Story of Laura Smith, broadcast in 2011, tells the story of those years and of the recovery which led her back to making music and performance.

Everything is Moving is a beautiful and inspiring return to form marked by five of her own compositions and superb interpretations of five other songs taken from tradition and other songwriters. “My life has been complicated and not particularly easy,” writes Laura in the liner notes. “I find myself realizing that fact furthers my connection to the people who like my music. We have all had rough times, and hopefully we have all come out of them stronger and happier than before. That is the spirit of this album.”

Indeed, there is a subtext of redemption, of recovery, of coming to terms with the hurdles of life that flows through these songs.

Two of Laura’s songs, “I Built a Boat” and “The Blues and I,” one of whose lines gives the album its title, metaphorically comment on both a longing for solitude and a deeper need not to be alone.

Her other originals include “John Keane’s Boys,” which sounds like it could be a traditional folksong from Nova Scotia; “What Goes Around,” perhaps my favourite song on the album, in which Laura reflects on “the puzzling relationship” she had with the man who raised her; and the beautiful and poignant “Safe Home, Sweet Light,” a farewell inspired by the deaths of a brother and old friend.

Among the others songs are “Lonely Waterloo,” a traditional song in which a woman laments the loss of her lover in the 1815 battle; Alex Sinclair’s “Magdalen McGillivray,” sung from the perspective of the Montreal-based wife of a fur trader two centuries ago who was declaring her independence on the realization of her husband’s other life and other wife in Fort William; and Kim Dunn’s “Inspiration,” a reflection on the creative process.

Laura’s versions of the other two songs on the album, “Gartan Mother’s Lullaby” and Micheál Ó h Ógáin’s “Horses and Plough,” both beautifully done, were inspired by the birth parents she grew up not knowing.

Laura singing throughout the album is supported by outstanding arrangements featuring such musicians as guitarists Paul Mills, who produced the album, and Tony McManus, bassist David Woodhead and keyboardist John Sheard. Guido Basso’s Flugelhorn adds much to a couple of songs.

Everything is Moving will be released on April 23. She’s be launching the album on Wednesday April 10 at Hugh’s Room in Toronto and on Wednesday April 17 at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage in Ottawa.

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--Mike Regenstreif

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review Mike. I haven't heard the album yet but looking forward to it when it arrives here in Scotland.

    I knew Laura back in the 70s when we both worked at Smales Pace Coffee House in London Ontario. I can remember many late nights after work sitting listening to Laura play the piano and sing her songs. She was till an unknown singer-songwriter, but I knew then that one day she would make it. Intelligent, moving songs and a distinctive voice that transported you.

    I'm so pleased she's getting the notice now. After all these years, I've finally re-connected with Laura and am hoping she'll get over to Scotland to share her music.

    Thanks again for singing her praises.