Review: Leela Gilday, “North Star Calling”

Leela Gilday - North Star Calling

Northwest Territories songwriter Leela Gilday returns with her first album in five years.

Your enjoyment of “North Star Calling” will hinge on your affection for Leela Gilday’s passionate vocals. Each song on the album is a showcase for her strong, commanding voice.  The songs in this collection inhabit the spaces between country, pop and rock.  Sonic landscapes where singers like Sarah MacLachlan and Jann Arden sell millions of records.  Gilday is far from a carbon copy of them though. Her songs take chances.  “K’eintah Natse Ju” for example, is buoyed beyond a straightforward acoustic rock song by the post-chorus exuberant chanting.

Gilday’s first new album in five years is a polished and tenderly produced record. My favorite track “Falling Stars” transcends its traditional melody and hooks.  A beautifully layered tapestry of sounds. The drums are withheld until absolutely necessary to increase the chorus to its triumphant peak.  Additional instruments boomerang through your speakers, maintaining the ears interest. A distorted guitar utilized just under the surface near the end of the tune is icing on the cake.

Gilday’s producer for the album, Hill Kourkoutis, deserves special consideration.  Not only for her ability to wrap Leela’s voice in appropriate harmonic sanctuary as the recording engineer but, for the actual performance of these instruments. Each track features three or more instruments played by her.

My second favorite song on “North Star Calling” is the album closer, “Yake Gotine.”  Leela’s vocal harmonies which float like smoke from a bonfire are aided by little more than an acoustic guitar and subtle percussion for accent.  The song’s simplicity creates a haunting and emotionally moving atmosphere.

I often get the sense people are attempt to make nice sounding records in the hope they could be played on commercial radio. This pursuit can result in fewer chances being taken, less ingenuity and overall lack of original creativity in the process. These people seem to forget we live in 2019, where commercial radio is owned and run by a select few, who only promote established artists or artists from established labels.  As Dylan said, “we’re only a pawn in their game”.  For the most part in “North Star Calling,” Leela manages to straddle the two sides of music; artistic expression and commercial viability. My favorite moments are when she dips her feet deeper into the former and forgets about the latter.

“North Star Calling” will be available on 6 September – visit Leela’s website for details.

A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.

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