Of all the connections in life, there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance – that’s with yourself. Since day one we’re bombarded with news, views, should’ves, should-not’s, traditions – ways of being that, for the most part, remain unquestioned and assimilated, till the process itself becomes largely invisible. The consequences are immense, as many find themselves unknowingly becoming little more than a reflection of the program.
With this realisation, you then face the daunting task of breaking out of the matrix, unravelling and untangling ourselves from our own history, and then finding what is, and is not, our true authentic self. The holy grail is finding your ‘truth’ – itself a long, arduous, and difficult journey that can take you there if you are brave enough to follow it.
For Winnipeg, MB singer-songwriter Karen Hammarstrand, with her latest single, “Still Life,” this is a journey she is very much compelled to take. “I’ve been caught in the woods of shouldn’t and should’s / Of want to, and have to, and need / Been towing a line that still won’t define / The truth or the answers for me / Listen to the voices, with all their choices / And tangled up points of view / Now it’s time to be still while there’s still life, I will / Put my trust where it’s rightfully due.” Before delivering the killer line: “I want to live totally free!”
Recorded and produced at Paintbox Studio (with Lloyd Peterson, Rusty Robot, and Jonathan Alexiuk), this killer line is a powerful lyric of obvious songwriting dexterity, wrapped inside a lovely unfussy jazz-infused soundscape. Special mention goes out to Richard Gillis too, whose impeccable, silky smooth cornet so easily finds expression in the musical gaps between Karen’s gently nuanced plaintive vocal delivery. The resulting sound is one supremely uncluttered, and both sophisticated and classy.
As the title track of an upcoming eleven song album to follow (to be released in June), for Karen, this song is one of many written from deeply personal as well as universal perspective, songs of love lost and found, of devastation, elation, the natural continuance and passing of life, and the beauty inherent in our planet.
The liner notes reveal that almost two dozen musicians were involved in the project, with multiple serial overdubs, hinting of a much richer and lavish follow-up to her 2015 “Late Blooming” debut album. And with that journey of trying to find yourself, recording the album in the chaos of rotating pandemic-based lock-downs posed many challenges – more hurdles to navigate and overcome on that personal quest, but something tells me that it will prove to have been so worthwhile.
Karen plans to donate a portion of CD sales proceeds to mental health programs, an area of significant focus and importance, and one very close to the heart of Karen and her family. A great cause indeed – I only wish I could be at the release party taking place at Winnipeg’s Times Changed High and Lonesome Club on June 8th to help her celebrate.
Photo Credit: Artist Website
Music has been a lifelong passion, a journey that as a child embraced the late 60's counter culture and has lasted until the present day. Despite trying to play guitar for the best part of 45 years, to his own frustration, never much beyond the first four bars of “Stairway to Heaven.” A self-confessed vinyl junkie, his other interests include collecting music memorabilia, old Muhammad Ali fight programs, and watching film. He lives alone in Nottingham (England) and still uses the term “Groovy” - these two facts may be intrinsically connected.