When I learned that JUNO Award winning folk music quartet, The Fretless, were sharing their latest single just last week, I recalled very fond memories of catching two shows by this band across consecutive weekends here in PA and MD back in 2018 (ah, live concerts and tours – remember those?). This would be the first (and only time to date) that we have had the opportunity to enjoy their strings-based musicianship, and even though band member Karrnnel Sawitsky did not partake in this tour (he was promoting a solo project at the time), the remaining trio of Eric Wright, Trent Freeman and Ben Plotnick invited Scottish violinist/vocalist Hannah Read to accompany them for those dates.
One particular highlight performed at both of these shows was a stunning traditional interpretation of the popular Radiohead tune, “Airbag,” where three fiddles and a cello (and wonderful vocals from Hannah) would spin an entirely new perspective on this indie-rock hit. So, while I was not overly surprised to learn that the latest offering from The Fretless would be a cover version of a popular Canadian hit, I was completely unprepared for the fact that the quartet would collaborate with the original artist on this reimagined version of his song.
“Troubled Mind” was a recently successful single for popular indie-folk singer-songwriter and fellow JUNO Award winner, Dan Mangan, another BC-based artist that we had the pleasure of seeing perform here in the US back in 2018. Co-written with Gordon Grdina and John Walsh, the track appeared originally on Mangan’s JUNO-nominated 2018 “More Or Less” album, and despite the subject matter, was possibly his most upbeat and danceable track to date. “Years back, I met Trent Freeman when we were sat next to each other on an airplane, [and] chatted about touring, music, and his band,” Dan recalls. “We kept in touch here and there, and then one day, he sent me an instrumental demo of Troubled Mind – and it totally ripped.”
The signature strings we have come to expect from The Fretless really bring this interpretation to life, which resonated with Mangan, who knew immediately that he wanted to contribute to this cover version of his own song. “It was so different from the original, but still harnesses the feeling and energy of how the song thumps in my head,” he adds. “I ducked down to my studio and whipped off some vocal takes. There was a pensive vibe to the recording and I ended up whispering the lyrics. It’s cool to hear this song completely reinterpreted through the lens of a pair of violins, a viola and a cello.”
“Troubled Mind is about the struggle to maintain any kind of mental equilibrium in the day-to-day as we’re bombarded with the woes of the world,” Dan shared back in 2018. “Haunted by the melody, the melody / Haunted by the melody, the melody / Sometimes it gets ahead of me, ahead of my mind / It gets ahead of me, gets ahead of me.” “As the inflation of urgency increases, so does our capacity and appetite for it,” he adds. “I succumb to it as much as the next person.” “Dan has long been a fav of ours and reworking this song of his was beyond an honor,” share The Fretless. “We’re big fans of this song and his music and albums…and, if you don’t mind [us] saying, it slaps.” “Are we the voice of reason? / Or just the faintest sound? / Are we the voice of reason? / I can’t figure it out.”