Although the Fortunate Ones have been on the Canadian folk scene for a few years now, their name only came across our musical radar in the last twelve months or so. Indeed, it was probably during our visit to Canada last December when we finally had the opportunity to hear their successful single “The Bliss” on CBC radio. With the instant gratification felt upon hearing this wonderful song, we found ourselves in the unfortunate position of being unable to return to southern Ontario just a couple of weeks later for a live show with this very talented duo.
Learning to accept that we cannot always be in the right place at the right time to catch all of the Canadian artists that we wish to see live in concert, we did settle (for now) on locating a copy of “The Bliss” CD on our first visit to Toronto in 2017. Knowing the quality of folk acts coming out of Newfoundland and The Maritimes, and with lots of positive buzz across social media, I could not wait to find out first hand just how good the Fortunate Ones would be.
After just one full spin of the CD during my morning commute, I was awestruck. With a vibrant folk scene accessible to us here in the US, we have no shortage of talented male/female duos to whom we listen, from relative newcomers “The Honey Dewdrops” and “The Rough and Tumble,” to the more established duos of “Mandolin Orange” and “The Civil Wars.” And with The Fortunate Ones, both Catherine Allan and Andrew James O’Brien use “The Bliss” as the perfect vehicle to demonstrate their songwriting prowess, their amazing choices in instrumentation, and above all, their impeccable harmonies. Of course, with the incredibly high standards that serves as the benchmark for artists hailing from the Newfoundland folk scene, should I have expected to hear anything less?
The Fortunate Ones have surrounded themselves with an army of talent in order to give this album the polished, yet authentic and honest final product. A quick review of the credits references the contributions made to the production of this album by many well established artists from the Eastern Canadian provinces. In the studio, the duo have both Don Brownrigg and Jenn Grant adding vocals, while former Great Big Sea member Kris MacFarlane takes care of the drumming duties.
An additional list of gratitude reads like a “who’s who” of musical talent, and includes Tom Power, Alan Doyle, Rose Cousins, Tom Cochrane, Sean McCann, and Amelia Curran. There is a strong sense that their entire East Coast peers and friends came together to collectively introduce this new talent to a much wider audience ready for a new fresh sound. Mission accomplished, as this offering from The Fortunate Ones certainly does not disappoint.
The title track is one of those great modern, feel-good, up-tempo folk songs that has you tapping away in rhythm, and it is easy to see why this was a huge hit with the CBC Radio 2 audience. I was particularly surprised and a little overwhelmed by “Lay Me Down,” where Allan and O’Brien deliver an edgier side of their repertoire that oozes a sound more similar in style to the collective works of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland’s “Whitehorse.”
With the inclusion of accordion, cello, and French horns on several tracks across the album, the Fortunate Ones have created a sound that remains traditional to its musical core. For me, however, their signature style in musical composition adds a creative flair to the standard ‘folk’ sound, thus providing an appeal to the discerning listener who enjoys an artist that can simultaneously respect and push the boundaries of their musical style. The Fortunate Ones have definitely tapped into something unique here, and I personally cannot wait to see where their musical journey takes them.