Review: Good Lovelies, “B-Sides”

Good Lovelies - B Sides

I must confess, and simultaneously hint at my generation in the process, that upon hearing the very term “B-Sides,” I am automatically transported back to those days of running to the record store to pick up the latest 45’s that you’d heard on the radio that week.  Before the days of the internet, and instantaneous music streaming, mainstream radio was pretty much your only true source for discovering new releases.  You’d return home with a bundle of 45’s, excited to spin the A-Side of each one on your record player numerous times to get your fix of these latest cool tunes.

Eventually, you’d take a look at the flip side of those 45’s, and perhaps proceed to give them a spin too.  And the beauty of those B-Sides is that you never knew what you would get.  It could be a less exciting track from their most recent album, or just some average filler piece that the artist wanted to share, but never found the right album on which to place it.  If you were lucky, you may find something completely avant-garde, other times maybe a remix or live version of a popular prior hit.  The point with “B-Sides” is that the listener ultimately had the decision to give them a whirl, or simply choose to ignore them, thus making them a completely ‘hit-or-miss’ entity.  Those 45’s were purchased primarily for what appeared on the A-Sides, after all.

When I saw the recent announcement from the popular Canadiana-folk trio, Good Lovelies, about releasing a small digital-only EP simply titled “B-Sides,” I knew immediately that the three tunes being shared could not possibly be considered the average offerings that I alluded to above.  Having enjoyed performances from this trio of Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, and Sue Passmore in concert, along with frequent spins of their studio albums over the years, there is no way that these latest tracks are likely to be considered fluff or filler material.  And after spinning this one for the last few days, I am pleased to report that these are anything but typical B-Side offerings.  No, these previously un-released tunes are instead a perfect reminder of what makes Good Lovelies one of Canada’s finest vocal trios, as they once again mate their high caliber songwriting to their incredible three-part vocal harmonies.

“With three songwriters, it’s easy to find ourselves with an excess of music come album time,” the trio share. “The goal of an album is to put forward the best package of songs from the larger collection of writing, which inevitably means that some favourites find the way to the cutting room floor.”  Although these three tracks are officially credited as being co-written by the trio, there are still individual connections to one of these songs by a particular member of the group.  “B-Sides is made up of three of our favourites, recorded at three different studios, at three different times, with three different teams,” the trio add.  “We have now picked them up from where they were left, and polished them so that we can at last share them with you.”

Good Lovelies

The opening track, “Blue Canoe,” was recorded in Toronto at Canterbury Music Co. by Adam King (Hannah Georgas, Jill Barber), who also co-produced with both Joshua Van Tassel and Good Lovelies.  With its laid-back charm and folk-country instrumentation, with the stunning lap steel courtesy of Christine Bougie, “Blue Canoe” was inspired by events surrounding Caroline’s brother-in-law, who worked in Haiti in disaster relief after the 2010 earthquake that rocked the island to its core.  “Should I head upstream or float my way down / The path of least resistance is the best I’ve found / I’m on the wind so I may be late / Cooking up dinner and the rubble will have to wait.”  “He’s a brilliant, loving human, always rolling with the punches, spreading joy, cooking up feasts for his family and friends,” Caroline shares. “Slow and steady, life is too beautiful to hurry.”

For those of you seeking those outstanding three-part vocal harmonies, “Life On The Road” shall be your track of choice.  “I wanna go and get out of this place / I wanna go where people don’t know my name / I wanna go to get away from it all / Kick up my heels and never look back.”  Recorded in Nova Scotia at Echo Lake Studio, under the watchful eye of Daniel Ledwell (Lynne Hanson, Sherman Downey), who produced, engineered and mixed this track, this tune perfectly captures the sentiments of many touring musicians who see no light at the end of this pandemic-driven tunnel.  “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from life on the road, it’s that the craving for novelty, adventure and the unknown goes hand in hand with the desire for familiarity, safety and the comforts of home,” Kerri offers. “I used to think I had to choose between being an adventurous person or being a person who loves to be home.  As I get older, I am more at peace with the idea that both of these people live inside me, and it’s my job to feed them, to keep me well, happy and thriving.”  There is a definitive up-tempo beat and sassiness that counter punches the subject matter, however, centered nicely around the signature sounds of Kyle Cunjak’s upright bass. 

Not only does “Dawson” round out the collection, it also brings together both the laid-back style of “Blue Canoe” and the vocal work of “Life On The Road.”  Recorded at Green Door Studio in Toronto, the trio sought the production and engineering prowess of John Critchley (Amelia Curran, Elliott BROOD) to help isolate and capture the love, memories, and sentimentality that the trio share for this particular place.  “In 2010, we had the good fortune of playing the Dawson City Music Festival, and it made a lifelong impression,” recalls Sue.  “[It] is our very own gem in the Yukon.”  And just as with “Blue Canoe,” Joshua Van Tassel once again provided additional production, engineering, and mixing at Dream Date Studio.  “Warming my heart like a hot cup of tea / A town so preserved, weathered boardwalks and churches / Oh, oh, oh / Under a tin roof, I’m slumbering lightly / Beneath the north sky that stays light through the night.”  “Dawson is a place like no other we have visited, in its beauty and uniqueness, in the way its heritage has been maintained, and in the way its residents love it,” Sue adds. “When I boarded the small plane to head home, the song flowed out right then and there in my window seat.  11 years later, I’m so pleased to be sharing it, and sending our love back up to Dawson.”

“B-Sides” in name, but A-Sides in nature, these are three stunning tracks from Good Lovelies.  Be sure to check out an upcoming online ‘Social Hour’ this Friday with Caroline, Kerri and Sue.  This event is more than just a concert – as they plan to chat with their fans, answer questions, share stories, and perform solo performances that you may never experience again.  Tickets are available here:

Photo credit: Joe Nolan

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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