The combination of fate and good fortune can lead to wonderful things. Hypothetically, for example, imagine how amazing it could be if an emerging Canadian singer-songwriter happened to cross paths with an award-winning Canadian actor, producer (complete with ties to the music industry), and director, and together, pool their musical talents and resources to form an absolutely killer new duo. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Okay, remove ‘hypothetical’ from that concept, and brace yourselves for a recently formed duo that are about to turn some heads within the folk, rock, and roots-Americana scene. You most likely have not heard the name Clever Hopes yet, but believe me, you will. You’re about to hear of them right here, right now, so prepare to be dazzled.
Originally from Edmonton, AB, and most recently a resident of Montreal, QC, Eva Foote has quietly been establishing herself as a songwriter, releasing a couple of albums along the way. I just discovered her outstanding 2016 single, “I Believe In You,” a country-gospel tinged number recorded, coincidently, by one of our pals Emily Bachynski (Bad Buddy) at Bitter North Sound. Small world, right? As for Andrew Shaver, having spent time in Paris, Philadelphia, and New York, he has appeared both in television and film, as well as performing on stages in Stratford, ON (Shakespeare Festival) and Toronto (Soulpepper Theatre Co.). Yet, in a land as vast and diverse as Canada, just how did two artists, from two different worlds, and two different backgrounds just so happen to cross paths?
For Andrew, events were set in motion on a snowy late November afternoon in Montreal when his girlfriend returned from Paris and promptly asked him to pack his bags and leave. Tired of the fighting, he grabbed his guitar, some clothes, his hockey gear, and sat in his car for hours trying to come to terms with what just happened. At some point just before midnight, he received a phone call from a good friend who had learned of the breakup. This good friend was none other than singer-songwriter Matthew Barber, and they ended up talking for hours as Andrew drove west from Montreal to Toronto. A new chapter was starting for Andrew, and although he wrote “Made You Mad” about that afternoon in Montreal, it would be over a little chicken stew and a late-night jam session in Toronto with Eva Foote that brought Clever Hopes to fruition.
“I know that I got lazy / I know you wanted more / I only gave you bits and pieces / Like broken dishes on the floor / You said loving you is easy / You even told me what to say / I thought I did more than I didn’t / But you just tucked your pain away / You said make me feel pretty / You said look me in the eye / You said kiss me cuz you want to / Not just to say goodnight.” Eva and Andrew offer up some fabulous rock & roll Americana music with this single, aided and abetted by a killer supporting cast: Joe Grass (electric guitars), Justin Rutledge (acoustic guitar), Noah Reid (keys), Steve Zsirai (bass) and Marshall Bureau (drums). For Andrew, that time spent in Stratford would pay dividends today, as he once hosted some popular music events in the small Ontario town that featured some of Canada’s biggest names, creating and fostering these connections to Barber, Rutledge, and Reid, with Barber handling the production duties on this debut single.
Recorded and engineered by Chris Stringer (Rose Cousins, Megan Bonnell) at Union Studios in Toronto, and mastered by Heather Kirby (Celeigh Cardinal, Dana Gavanski) at Dreamlands Mastering, Clever Hopes present listeners with another stunning male-female collaborative duo, joining the likes of Jeremie Albino & Cat Clyde, Harrow Fair, and Whitehorse. “When you told me that it’s over / You said pack your bags and go / I couldn’t fight it any longer / So I drove out in the snow / Towards a city we used to live in / A city full of all my friends / A city full of our old memories / So baby I’ll see you again.” “With a tip of its cap to the great rock duets that give it life, Made You Mad is the phoenix that soars out of love’s fiery demise,” the duo share. “A reminder that, even when it is your fault, it’s going to be ok. It’s the broken-hearted love song that might come too late to fix it, but just in time to try again.” “Cuz we drove each other crazy / Yeah we made each other so damn mad / But the when’s and why’s have grown hazy / About how we let it get, oh how’d we let it get this bad / How’d we ever let it get so bad? / Cuz baby we sure did.”
In addition to this release today, the duo and their star-studded band (this time featuring Kev Foran, and Matthew Barber in lieu of Justin Rutledge) also recently shared “Artefact,” a teaser track that you really should spend some time with too. There is a much slower, olde-worlde charm to this one that immediately encourages you to guess what you may get – will it be folk, country, or even jazz? Once Andrew and Eva step up to their respective mics and deliver these opening lines, the answer appears to be a mixture of all three: “She combs her hair like it’s an artefact / So quietly and delicate / Another century’s golden strands / Sheathed in cypress leaves and cardamom.”
“Artefact” offers a complete contrast to “Made You Mad,” and very quickly asks you to step back and reassess any initial impressions you may have formed from their debut single alone. Because unlike the lively single we first heard, this errs more towards a coffee house schmoozer, similar in sound and style to BC’s Ocie Elliott, and even the timeless collaboration between Matthew and his sister Jill Barber on their “The Family Album.” “She closes the door to all of the noise in her life / Imagines herself back in another time / Where she’ll steal a kiss from an olive-skinned boy / The press of his lips full of wonder and joy.”
Cue those vintage guitar riffs from Joe, before Andrew and Eva offer their harmonies on a short bridge, and the unexpected, yet equally charming, French language lines. “And she doesn’t have to say / A single solitary thing to me / She doesn’t have to say / A single solitary thing to me / Oh but I do / Oh but I do / Oui je t’avoue / La vie est belle / La vie est bienveillante / Oh qu’elle est belle et bienveillante.” Be sure to stick around, and savor the surprise short burst of additional instrumentation from Kev Foran that draws this one to a close – it truly is the icing on the cake. I strongly hope and suspect that we shall be hearing much more from this talented duo in the near future.
Photo Credit: Kyle Gatehouse