Ontario based singer-songwriter Reid Zoé, who may be better known as a member of the folk-roots trio, Sleeping Bees, releases her debut solo EP, “Shed My Skin,” today. The album introduces audiences to Reid’s insightful and mesmerizing songwriting, comprised of her image-filled lyrics floating lightly above uncannily spellbinding melodies, accompanied by delicate harmonies, brushed guitar, sultry strings and her own stylistic vocal prowess. A set of five songs carefully designed to tell a tale of transformation and renewal, but more importantly, to clearly signal the emergence of another stellar Canadian talent.
The EP begins softly. With the touchingly somber tones of “Aches,” Reid’s voice, briefly echoing Emmylou Harris influences, is backed by bewitching harmonies and the haunted ringing of pedal steel. “Where did it all go? / And have the birds all gone back to their homes / I’ve gotten used to days without you there / The autumn air tastes crisp and sweet / But fleeting as your memories / Soon dead and gone, those empty trees / Where did it all go?” The mood, tonality, and lyric of this opening song sets the pace and mood of the pieces that follow. Thematically, Reid Zoé is outlining the thoughts that pervade the album’s lyrics – loss, the temporal and ephemeral characteristics of time and love, hope, and dreams. The songstress has summed up her intent by stating that these songs are “about nature, existential anxieties and the people that I love.”
Reid Zoé grew up in a small town near Toronto, which at this stage of her development, informs her writing. Of all her tunes, it is her second track, “The Moon,” that emphasizes that fragile balance of holding on, forewarned that nothing lasts, not even disappointment. In the lamplight of this song, you can feel the cracks in the sidewalks beneath and the blue shimmer moonlight leaves on a darkened street. The sadness in this song is tender, yet somehow defiant, moving forward, still hung up and lonely, while the still powers that revolve over and under the walking, lead the heart and mind of a thoughtful person forward.
“Ghosts,” has a timeless Appalachian feel in its banjo and guitar combination, joined resolutely by piano and bass. The richness in this performance underscores the sentiment in the lyric and lends authenticity to the longing and mystery as the tale unfolds. Zoé is cautious in what is revealed here, which makes the lyric even more seductive. “See the forest, for the trees / Lost in the details, nostalgia brings me to my knees / Every time / Sun baked scent of burning pine / Packed down pathways, I’ve walked this trail a thousand times.” Something resonates within these images. Most of us can surely relate? Who among us does not have similar hauntings in our memory, whether we regret or rejoice? This one is a gem, well worth spending time with, and will surely find its way to some international streaming song list.
“When I Go” was released as a single previously, and provides a serious pondering of metaphysical stature. Reid Zoé displays a deft hand at working such a universal yet inexplicable enigma. Life so abundant with treasures, so vast with joy, is fleeting without effective guidance in most cases. Posed as a series of questions, the lyrics ascend, evoking Reid’s sense of wonder and loving appreciation of the preciousness of being. Flush with ascending crystal-clear harmonic voices, sonorous cello, the questions asked almost seem answered, or at least lovingly acknowledged, by sound upon sound – headwinds, meditative and sincere.
Many a lyricist and songwriter have used the metaphor to allude to or articulate transmutation; the personal discovery that within the grasp of each one’s destiny, lies the power to rise above, to grow, to become anew. “Shed My Skin,” the title track, and final offering on this slender collection, both fulfills the promise and the singular familiarity with her chosen theme. Beyond simple poetic aspiration, Reid’s choice of music and word amplify her own inner experience, setting the stage for the prospect of what her gift might lead her toward, both personally and artistically. Any songwriter willing to risk so much to explore such themes, with such integrity, deserves our attention, love, and respect.
Photo Credit: Andy Ince