Just last Friday, GDW’s Richard Clark shared with us his musings about “Thrive,” the latest EP from Toronto’s Claire Davis, and I very quickly found myself enraptured by this one too. Loving the old-time charm and vintage soul sounds offered by Claire, it felt completely natural to be transported away to simpler times, to a place where the most enjoyable 45s had Stax or Motown stamped onto their labels. Richard felt the same way, describing the artist as “someone who was born to do exactly what she’s doing, the consequence of absorbing a lifetime worth of classic soul music to the point where both ‘she’ and ‘it’ have become so entwined to be indistinguishable.”
Just hearing a few opening bars of “There Ain’t No Way (Better Days Version),” the latest single released today from Edmonton, AB singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal, I feel a strong sense of déjà vu. The timeless soul sounds of the swinging sixties burst from my headphones once again, and not only earn my full attention, but also coerce my feet to start uncontrollably tapping in time as Celeigh delivers her opening verse: “Well I got some habits, got some habits that I ain’t quit / And I got some awful dirty nasty evil tricks / Well I got piles of trash, got layers and layers of scars / Got a lot of junk to get through to get to this jaded old heart.”
Of course, for those familiar with the music from this JUNO Award winning artist, this soulful new tune is not entirely new; but a reimagined version of an original song found on Celeigh’s 2017 “Everything and Nothing at All” album. “I poured my heart into this song when I wrote it, and to this day, I feel the magical power of love healing me when I sing it,” Celeigh shares. “I’ve changed, the song’s changed but the feeling is the same – it is an anthem to remind me that I am worthy of love. Back in 2017, I didn’t … record and orchestrate this song in the way I wanted to, now in 2021 I finally can, because so much has changed and it is definitely ‘Better Days’.”
Recorded at Studio Bell in Calgary under the watchful eye of producer James Bunton (who also mixed), and mastered by Heather Kirby at Dreamlands Mastering, Celeigh is joined by a top-notch team of musicians to truly bring this updated version to life: Brayden Treble (guitar), Brennan Cameron (keyboards), Drew Jurecka (strings), Paul Bergeron (bass), and Brendan Lyons (drums). “It was a song I wrote when I had fallen deeply in love with someone who made me feel worthy of love that it felt like it was truly healing me. I sobbed as I wrote this song, and it has been very special to me,” Celeigh offers when prompted about the origins of the song. “I’ve since broken up with the person, but what’s changed is that the song is now about self-love, knowing that you are worthy of love, and holding onto that feeling.”
“Well there are places, real dark places that I hide / And I got poisons, oh so many poisons to ease my mind / And I’ll drift away when you’re holding me tight / Got a lot of repairing left to do to make everything alright / But there ain’t no way I’m gonna let you go baby / There ain’t no way I’m gonna let this slip away.”
The single is accompanied by an equally delightful music video, filmed at Hey You! Studios in Edmonton, and produced/directed by emerging artist Cayley Thomas (whose name keeps popping up on our pages, it seems – so much energy and so much talent). And while this song is a great toe-tapper just from the audio alone, the video element adds so much more depth to allow the listener to fully connect with Celeigh’s origins of the tune. Never one to shy away from sharing some pretty nostalgic music videos of her own, Thomas holds nothing back with this particular shoot. The decision to generate these distinct monochromatic color schemes during four different scenes is pure brilliance, where vibrant pastels and hues combine with bold, empowering sets to visually bring those vintage audio cues to life.
“I love making music videos and jumped at the opportunity to create one with Celeigh. She is an artist of true integrity and brought together a remarkable team of folks to work on this project,” offers Cayley. “As a musician myself, I know it requires a high level of trust to hand over your brand to another creative… so I was deeply honoured that she chose to entrust me with the creation of this bold and colourful video to accompany one of her most popular songs!”
You may feel a little hot under the collar in Celeigh’s ‘red’ room, where color-coded décor serves to accentuate her red dress and glass of red wine (not to mention her canine companion Daisy Mae). The ‘white’ room brings the blood pressure down, with its calm, minimalist nature, Celeigh now in pig tails seated casually on ruffled white sheets that could almost be clouds. The ‘purple’ room brings on the glamour, with Celeigh joined on screen by Jessa Sky and Eleesha Papin to add their beautiful harmonies, and beautiful purple evening gowns. It is the ‘gold’ room that stands out though, with the band making their appearance in matching gold outfits. The attention to detail from Thomas is stunning, with golden instruments, and guitarist Brayden Treble playing with a yellow pick while donning some gold-tinted glasses. Phenomenal.
Not every artist wishes to revisit previous songs once they are recorded, released, and out there in the world. For some, it’s simply another musical chapter closed, and on to the next – no need to spend time looking in the rearview mirror. So, kudos to Celeigh Cardinal for taking such an opportunity to step back for a moment, to return to the drawing board, and to recreate her art in line with the vision she originally had. Kudos again to Celeigh Cardinal for sharing this amazing Better Days Version with us today; this incredibly powerful rendition that gets better with each and every subsequent spin; a simply delightful and nostalgic journey down memory lane, with Celeigh at the wheel, gas pedal to the floor, cranking out the sounds of yesteryear.
I encourage everyone to give this one a solid listen and enjoy the wide range of sound and emotions on offer, to simply play on repeat for a while, because honestly, here is an artist raising her entire game to a whole new level, and it starts right here, right now. Surely that’s not something you’d want to miss?
Artwork Credit: Eric Kozakiewicz