“Prairie straight lines of hay / Where the fields are flat and the skies give it away / No one knows how the beauty became / Now we are left standing in the rain.”
If you are a new and emerging artist looking to make a very favorable first impression – at least upon this particular listener – go ahead and punch me hard with pedal steel and vintage guitar. We all know that old-school traditional country music is my Achilles Heel, and if you go ahead and load it up with a generous serving of heart wrenching pedal steel from the off-set, you’ve won me over before you’ve even shared your opening line.
Never have I met, or spoken with Toronto-based singer-songwriter Meredith Lazowski, but within the context of her stunning first single, “Prairie,” released just last Friday, this emerging artist certainly seems to have my number. As the lead track, and first taste of music from this alt-country new arrival’s forthcoming debut album, “Other Way Home,” this song is itself a personal tribute to the breathtaking landscape and her familial ties to the prairies of northern Saskatchewan – even honoring her own grandmother’s roots, who today continues to farm large tracts of land.
“The coyotes running around / But so much family makes you safe and sound / Helping out with every dish / Comforted by the generosity of them.”
With each and every spin of this single, the more “Prairie” seeps under my skin – the intentional laid back and methodically slow tempo tearing my emotional defenses down. I’m reminded somewhat of a similar sensation encountered late last summer when first hearing “Artefact,” a teaser track from the newly-formed Toronto duo, Clever Hopes. Both tunes not only tap into the vintage country sound, but share an aura the connects them to the timeless origins of the genre. And not unlike Meredith’s story, the duo of Andrew Shaver and Eva Foote were also recent Toronto transplants, looking to establish their musical identity in a new city.
Clever Hopes enlisted a stellar supporting cast from Toronto’s musical community to bring their debut album to life, including JUNO Award winner Justin Rutledge – who contributed not only to their album, but also found himself introduced to Meredith, and subsequently agreed to produce both this single and her album to follow. The addition of musical talent from that same Toronto pool would quickly follow, notably Tom Juhas (electric guitar), Devon Henderson (bass), Kelsey McNulty (keys/organ), Joshua Van Tassel (drums), Bronwyn Lazowski (backing vocals) and of course, pedal steel extraordinaire Burke Carroll.
For Meredith, “Prairie” represents the first of many original compositions written in response to her own life experiences from the east and west coasts of Canada, and performed in homes, around campfires, and on small stages in Ontario. “I believe Prairie was the second song I wrote. I was sitting in my parents’ living room thinking of ways to commemorate and remember my Prairie summer experiences,” she recalls. “I was trying to capture my strong emotional relationship with the Prairie landscape in both my lyrics and my melody.” With guidance from Rutledge, and her strong supporting cast, the music is transformed into a vibrant and alluring album, an ethereal collection that we can all take along on our own personal journeys. “Other Way Home,” Meredith’s debut album, is set to be released this coming June.
“Well, it brings me back now and then / Now and then / And the west wind blows to the east / To remind me.”
Photo Credit: Jen Squires