Have you ever had the frustration of already made plans to be elsewhere when you learn of a great event taking place closer to home, that you are sad to miss? That was certainly the case for us last year, when we learned that both Dala and The Young Novelists were visiting PA for a show in the historic town of Jim Thorpe, PA, just a short 2.5 hour drive away. Our plans had us in Ontario at that time, but fortunately, a brief chat with Dala’s Sheila Carabine in Hamilton, ON, earlier this year led to the knowledge of a repeat performance this fall with both Dala and The Young Novelists. Stalking the website of the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, once we saw tickets go on sale, we snapped them up.
Welcomed to the stage, the husband and wife duo of Graydon James and Laura Spink would share a broad selection of tracks from across their last three Young Novelists albums. Opening with “Left Behind” from their 2012 “In The Year You Were Born” album, the duo quickly earned the full attention of the room. “That song’s a little bit of a heavy one, but it’s an important topic,” Laura shared as the song came to a close. “It’s about a friend of ours who took his own life a number of years ago, and none of us knew that anything was wrong … until he was gone. Yesterday was Mental Health Awareness Day, and I think it’s really awesome that socially we’re talking about it now, without the stigma associated with mental illness.” “Having said that, all the songs from now on will be very, very happy songs,” added Graydon, prior to the next track. “It’s folk music, right? It’s all happy songs, and this one is about a terrible relationship … but it sounds happy.”
Sharing both “Back to the Hard Times” and “All Alone” from their 2018 “In City & Country” album, Laura would address the room once more. “So we kind of lied about the sad song thing,” she stated. “It’s kind of our thing. We sing sad songs and we’re happy people. That’s our tag line; happy people that sing sad songs, and that’s kind of appropriate.” Following with “Hear Your Voice” from their 2015 “Made Us Strangers” album, the duo would generate plenty of laughter with a tale about “Couldn’t Be Any Worse;” an award winning composition for Graydon. “The cool thing about the award is that it came with a trophy, which is pretty rad,” stated Laura. “It has this cool little sculpture on the top of it, and on the plaque there was the award, with Graydon’s name, and then underneath that in quotes was the name of the song, which is Couldn’t Be Any Worse, which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t a great name.” “Yeah, I was lobbying hard to have the song called World’s Greatest Lover,” Graydon interjected. “But, errrrr.”
The Young Novelists Set List:
- Left Behind
- Back to the Hard Times
- All Alone
- Hear Your Voice
- Couldn’t Be Any Worse
- Come Round Again
Following a brief intermission, the lights would dim and Scarborough, ON, natives Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther were introduced to the Opera House stage. With a selection of popular Dala tracks, and some new solo material, the duo brought their amazing musical talents and camaraderie to Jim Thorpe. Look up the word chemistry in any dictionary, and in a perfect world, you’d simply find an image of Dala; with their genuine friendship and ability to complete each other’s sentences being the very definition of chemistry. Best known for their incredible harmonies, the duo would shine during tracks such as “Lennon & McCartney,” “Levi Blues,” and the always moving, “Horses.” And with some very recent side projects, both would have the chance to debut some unreleased material.
“We were actually just in New York City last weekend, and it was very exciting,” Sheila announced. “Amanda has been writing the soundtrack for a film, and the film is complete, and we went to the private premiere of this movie. Every song featured in the film is written by Amanda.” Cue the well-deserved applause for the accomplishment. “It was very overwhelming,” Amanda added. “It was the first time I’ve worked on a film, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.” “The movie is called ‘Walk With Me,’ and there was a gang of about ten of us, and we took up a whole row,” Sheila shared. “And I was like your stage mom; stand up, get recognition, do you know that she wrote music to the film?” Performing “I Will Be The Light,” which shall accompany the closing credits to this movie, Amanda would have a solo performance later in the evening, during which time she would share another new composition from this soundtrack, titled “Everything Can Wait.”
Sheila would also enjoy a momentary solo spot, sharing “The Ocean,” a deeply personal new track that shall be featured on the upcoming “Kennedy Road” album, her latest project with singer-songwriter Brian MacMillan. Dala fans would also be happy to learn that Sheila and Amanda shall soon be sharing a new, unreleased track next month. “So if you’ll indulge us with this next song, we had a whole Dala band debate about whether we’ll play it or not,” Sheila stated, as she seated herself at the grand piano on stage. “So Amanda and I are excited because it’s been about seven years since we released a Dala song for the world, so we’re releasing a Christmas song this November.” Titled “Christmas Time is not the Same,” be sure to follow Dala on social media to learn much more about the personal connection between Sheila and this beautiful new song.
And did I mention the chemistry between these best friends earlier? Well, for those of you skim-reading, yes, Amanda and Sheila’s natural chemistry was displayed all evening through their songs, timing, tales and body language. “We were in a crazy traffic jam yesterday, and then we crossed the border,” Sheila recalled. “And to dispel all stereotypes about gruff border guards, we drove up and he’s listening to Mozart.” Pausing for effect, Sheila would continue. “And he puts his book down and states, ‘Oh, I remember you,’ which was weird. On our way out we had to pass him again, and I asked, ‘What book are your reading?’ Oh, it was just the biography of Glenn Gould, the Canadian piano player.” He remembered us,” Amanda added. “He remembered we were a folk duo, and I thought, ‘are you actually our stalker?” As Sheila removed her guitar and headed to the piano once more, Amanda flashed her footwear to the audience. “I wore my runners, they’re pink and have Velcro straps,” she joked. “Did you declare those at the border?” Sheila retorted, and stating later that she draws the line at wearing Crocs on stage.
Following an incredibly rousing cover of the Danny Michel track, “Nobody Rules You,” Dala took their bows to a standing ovation and cries of ‘Encore’ throughout the Opera House. Calling out for The Young Novelists to join them for one more song, the foursome went sans microphones, opting to close with a purely vocal-acoustic cover of “All I Have to do is Dream.” A stunning end to a perfect night of entertainment in Jim Thorpe. Let’s hope that we all get to share this experience again next year, as we’d love to welcome both Dala and The Young Novelists back to this southern gateway to the Pocono mountains. Our first visit to Jim Thorpe was a memorable one, and we’ll happily return to hear music from great artists such as these.
Dala Set List:
- Oh Darling Don’t You Know
- If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot cover)
- Lennon and McCartney
- I Will Be The Light (***New*** Amanda Walther)
- Fishing Boats
- Best Day
- Christmas Time is not the Same (***New Unreleased***)
- Witchy Woman (Eagles cover)
- Everything Can Wait (***New*** Amanda Walther solo)
- The Ocean (***New*** Sheila Carabine solo)
- Levi Blues
- Nobody Rules You (Danny Michel cover)
- All I Have to do is Dream (Everly Bros. cover – feat. Young Novelists)