Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gabrielle Papillon: "The Currency of Poetry" (album review)

You've heard me say it before: folk music is about as enjoyable as yanking out your own fingernails with a pair of rusty needlenose pliers.  Usually.

You can thank Halifax/Montreal's Gabrielle Papillon for that new added qualifier.  Her new album The Currency of Poetry (out October 11th) is far from the typical folk snooze-fest.

What separates Papillon from the folk pap is that she doesn't view melody as the enemy.  A slight nod to pop sensibility, and a keen sense of harmony, go a long way for her.  Songs like "Paddle and Row" and "Dust To Gold" prove that you don't need a lot of instrumentation to add a memorable hook to your song.  Papillon accomplishes much with just a guitar strum and the occasional banjo part.

The lyrics and themes on the record are very Canadian.  Prairie imagery dominates "On the Banks", making it seem almost like a Neil Young acoustic number, if Young sang on key..and was a woman.

The vocals on the album are strong as well.  Papillon's lyrics come through crystal clear.  It's not a powerful voice, but it is incredibly well-matched for her musical style.  The standout vocal performance comes in the touching "One Small Frame", a track on which Papillon sounds almost Feist-like.

In the end what Papillon has taught me is that it's not folk music that I have a problem with, it's that too many musicians do it oh so poorly.

Gabrielle Papillon plays The Supermarket in Toronto on November 16th.

Best tracks: "Dust To Gold", "Outlaws and Criminals"

Track listing for The Currency of Poetry:
  • Paddle and Row
  • On the Banks
  • Dust To Gold
  • No Common Ground
  • One Small Frame
  • Like We Go Together
  • Years In Our Bones
  • Outlaws and Criminals
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