Review: Mimi O’Bonsawin, “Willow”

Mimi O’Bonsawin, “Willow”

Contemporary roots singer-songwriter Mimi O’Bonsawin releases her new album, “Willow,” today, and shares that her vision for this album was to break away from the perfectionism that is the music industry’s recording expectations. Instead, Mimi opted to return to a wholesome way of making music, to include the raw breaths and imperfections that typically occur, and which gives her music a sense of real-time and life as if we were sitting around listening to her play on the spot.

Previously shared here on GDW last October was her single “I Am Alive,” and after listening to the album now in its entirety, I believe Mimi was hinting that she found life in her music, and now shares more of it without fear. She reveals more about her journey to write this album: “Just like the bark of the willow tree, the making of this album has brought me so much healing. I have never felt more alive.” For many years, Mimi struggled to find her ‘sound’ and her ‘voice.’ “This album sounds like the music I have always heard in my heart,” she adds. “It is honest, it is real, and it is full of life. I feel like all of my previous albums have led me to where I am now, learning and growing at every chapter.”

“Willow” is a collection of 14 songs, with an album cover so welcoming in its own right that I wish I could just take off my shoes and lay under that willow tree while I listen. The album starts with a beautiful instrumental track, “Nothing but Time,” that lures me right into Mimi’s world and carries me into the second track, “Blossoming.” She conveys a relatable story of acknowledging yourself just as you are and accepting that it’s the mistakes and imperfections that make us beautiful in our own ways.

I especially feel myself ‘seen’ as she sings, “Sometimes silence is okay / Sometimes I catch myself acting strange / I’ve got insecurities / But I’ll face them at my own rate.” Ultimately concluding, “… I don’t regret my mistakes / I learned my lessons / I am blossoming.” And really that’s what the journey is about – the lessons learned along the way, showing ourselves grace, and blossoming after all into something even more beautiful.

Mimi O'Bonsawin

I particularly enjoy the powerful mantra in “Here’s to the Women” – itself a beautiful tribute that transcends generations and nationalities to strong women who helped keep a passionate flame going through their families. Mimi sings, “You come from great grandmothers whose love never died / Here’s to all the women who have carried us to where we are / Here’s to the women who came before / Who blessed the earth with light and love / Here’s to the women who are warriors…”

While the whole album is a pleasure to experience Mimi’s collection of lyrics and instrumentals, I find myself circling back to “Dreamwalker.” Alluding to how insightful dreams can be to those who tune in and listen, I can’t help but be encapsulated by Mimi’s voice, her rhythms, and even the cello that orbits in and out as if it has a secret of its own to reveal.

The final nod goes to the title track, “Willow,” which could very well be my favorite track on the album. For me, this is one of those songs you hear once and it forces you to pause for a moment and wonder if the artist wrote this just for you. Impossible, of course! Occurrences like this are a reminder that if you listen closely, the universe speaks in all sorts of subtle ways. Every line of this song is worth quoting, so I will leave it to you to give it a listen. Perhaps you too need to hear the same message I did.

Photo Credit: Ryan Schurman

Jess has always enjoyed a wide range of music genres and eras. Connecting deeply with classical music, she played cello from grade school through high school, and although no longer actively playing, her affinity for finding an emotional connection to music is still strong. Residing in central PA, she is new to the Canadian music scene and enjoys listening to new artists as a way to break away from “the usual.” Jess is an avid yogi who often finds a sliver of peace while on the yoga mat with good music playing in the background.

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