Album Review

February 13, 2013

in Press

Record2Tannis Slimmon In and Out of Harmony (independent)
The Record

It doesn’t seem like five years since Tannis Slimmon released her last album, but that’s because the light of Guelph’s folk scene always seems to be around — and by that I don’t mean she’s overexposed, but whenever I fondly recall a Hillside afternoon or many of my favourite musical moments in this town over the last 20 years, Tannis Slimmon is always there: her impeccable voice part of the eternal soundtrack of this city.

And though she has appeared on more than 80 albums, you can count on less than one hand the ones that bear her own name. The woman takes her time. And like her approach to harmony, she doesn’t make an appearance until exactly the right moment. Which is why In and Out of Harmony is an impeccable distillation of Slimmon’s many talents: not just as a vocalist, but as a songwriter, an arranger and a curious musical soul.

Created, as always, with her longtime collaborator in life and song, Lewis Melville, there is plenty here to separate Slimmon from, say, the Justin Rutledges of this country. Though her voice is like a warm blanket, her lyrics earnest and her songwriting rooted in traditional Canadian folk, very little else in her music is predictable. Whether its her seamless integration of African instruments — she and Melville have acted as a bridge to Canada for several musicians from Mali — or the way she layers harmonies like early, eerie Joni Mitchell, or the way Melville always places an odd instrumental juxtaposition or something slightly off-kilter in the mix, Slimmon’s music is always working on several different levels simultaneously. She gets plenty of ace help here from the likes of former Rheostatics Martin Tielli and Dave Clark, as well as Western Canadian guitar hero Bill Bourne.

Lyrically, Slimmon is writing in a way that only a songwriter on the other side of 50 can, confronting issues of mortality, stock-taking, redemption and acceptance. Slimmon’s music has always had a healing effect even in happier times; it’s no surprise that she delves into our darkest fears and comes back with empathy and an eternal optimism.

Being both deadly serious and taking pleasure in life’s simplest joys are not mutually exclusive, and set to a soundtrack like this, anything seems possible.

Help Tannis Slimmon launch her fantastic new album this Saturday, February 16 at Guelph Little Theatre, with a band featuring Lewis Melville, Dave Clark, Jude Vadala, Rosemary Phelan and more.

Previous post:

Next post: