It was by pure chance that I recently encountered the music from Montreal folk band, Saint Lo, when needing just one more new song for my latest “Snappy Singles” feature. Upon hearing their current single, “Blueberry Fields,” I was literally blown away by their phenomenal multi-dimensional sound, hypnotic vocals, and lush harmonies. Quite easily one of my favorite tunes so far this year, I was naturally very curious to check out their full length “We Could Be” album released back on April 15th.
Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, this quartet of Marc Richard (guitar/saxophone/vocals), Laura Glover (flute/guitar/vocals), Isabella Harned (violin/guitar/vocals) and Bashu Naimi-Roy (accordion/organ/vocals) have certainly tapped into the source of both Acadian and East Coast traditional folk music with the eight tracks offered on this release. Mixed and engineered by Ryan McNabb at McGill Studios, Saint Lo have not only unleashed a stunning album that will charm the traditional folk music listener; but represent a growing (and very much welcomed) younger generation of trad-folk musicians that provide a fresh and exuberant sound to earn attention from music lovers with a looser definition of the genre.
Opening with “Someday/Storm,” all four members of the band are given the opportunity to shine from the offset. The traditional folk sound paves the way with a calm demeanor; at least until the “Storm” hits, and the instrumentation does the talking. You cannot ignore those blasts of fiddle that act like lightning bolts, while John Talbot’s drum rolls counter-punch with the thunder. And how about the moment of calm and reflection as the storm passes, before a brief serene organ draws the first track to a close. Remember the advice that you should always strive to make a great first impression? Well, Saint Lo just raised the bar with this one.
Both “Marry Me” and “Grace” will be embraced by those who err more towards traditional East-Coast (and European) folk, irrespective of age, as this is music that easily transcends generational differences. With their textured vocals and soothing instrumentation, the emotion and power of the lead vocals during “Grace” in particular, will grab your attention with each and every listen. And wait until you hear Isabella’s violin during this one. It shall make your journey an enjoyable one – be prepared!
No traditional folk album is complete without a tale of love or opposites that attract, and with “Sex,” Saint Lo crank up the dial with this tongue-in-cheek ditty about ‘two people who shine.’ Give this one a spin if you like some lively drums, fiddle and accordion to complement your foot tapping habits. The band are also quick to demonstrate that they can perfectly fuse their take on traditional folk with a modern approach, as found on “Best Friend’s Clothes,” where the accordion once again reinforces the ‘old,’ while some distinct drum and bass adds an element of the ‘new’ in similar style of PEI band, The East Pointers. With their stunning four piece harmonies down the stretch, the fiddle returns once more to shatter your defenses, and have you totally succumbing to their infectious sounds.
Did I mention already that it was pure luck that brought the music of Saint Lo into my own little universe? Okay, I guess I did. I have been impressed very quickly by this band, and, as per their bio, the ease in which “they sing about complex emotions – vulnerability, isolation, connection, nostalgia and loss – always infused with more than just a hint of hope.” Not only is this an outstanding studio album, but is too a reminder that the future of traditional folk music is in great hands with the next generation of artists such as Saint Lo. Very highly recommended listening.