With two full length album releases already under her belt, and a future release currently in the works, I have very quickly taken a shine to the music of Edmonton, AB JUNO Award winning singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal. When presented with the opportunity to review Celeigh’s latest single, I needed to learn a little more about the artist, and discovered a stunning collection of songs found in her 2019 “Stories From A Downtown Apartment” album, which was named ‘Indigenous Music Album of the Year.’ Hearing tracks such as “Song by the Supermoon” and “The Devil is a Blue-Eyed Man” for the first time, I found these to be simply out of this world.
Although Celeigh has a career at CKUA Radio and CBC Edmonton, this in turn provided mere stepping stones for her voice to make its way to becoming one of the greats among the Canadian roots music scene. If the success of a JUNO winning album signaled her arrival, what better way to expand and widen your reach to a larger audience than with a new single, itself a unique interpretation of an iconic Canadian song? Today, Celeigh is excited to release a cover of “Ahead By A Century,” the classic hit by The Tragically Hip, who I must confess I have little familiarity with, but I’m sure that is not true for most who know this song.
For Celeigh, the idea of covering this song was inspired by performing a small portion of the tune on a Scotiabank commercial last December. “It felt very serendipitous to be the voice for this commercial. I so admired the many facets of Gord’s work,” she reveals, referencing the late Gord Downie, lyricist/vocalist from The Tragically Hip. “He used his voice to bring attention to Indigenous issues to a massive demographic of Canadians who have never learned of residential schools otherwise. I feel tethered to the song and I wanted to sing it from my perspective with the voice of gratitude and joy.” Just prior to his death from brain cancer in 2017, Kingston, ON native and Canadian national treasure, Gord Downie, devoted his remaining days to creating awareness surrounding Indigenous culture and the true history regarding residential schools.
“Covering Ahead By A Century was a daunting task. The Tragically Hip are beloved in Canada, so while I was nervous to release one of their songs with a different spin, I wanted to celebrate Gord Downie’s contribution to Indigenous communities with a joyful version of this song,” Celeigh adds. “The words ‘no dress rehearsal, this is our life’ still run over and over in my head. What a massive truth this that is. The music video is a celebration of our lives. It is filled with my friends, family, community, including folks who are ambassadors from the Downie & Wenjak Fund, who are sharing their joy. Friendship, grandparents, parents, siblings, partners, dogs; this video is all about shining a light on all types of very necessary types of love we need to really live.”
“Ahead By A Century” is itself a mastery of wordplay, leaving it to one’s own interpretation throughout. This is the first time I have heard this song, and I quickly identified with the opening verse, which sparks childhood memories of climbing trees and daydreaming. “First thing we’d climb a tree / And maybe then we’d talk / Or sit silently / And listen to our thoughts / With illusions of someday / Cast in a golden light.” I believe many of us can relate to the simplicity of spending time with a friend without feeling like you have to have deep conversations to connect. There is often much said within the comfortable silence shared between friends, followed by discussing the extraordinary perfect lives we plan to have when we grow up. Both verses in the song end with such noted lyrics: “No dress rehearsal / This is our life,” words that ring equally true when spoken outside the context of this song.
Produced and mixed by James Bunton (Wild Rivers, Donovan Woods), and mastered by Heather Kirby at Dreamlands Mastering, Celeigh is joined by a strong studio ensemble to create this fabulous rendition of a Canadian classic: Christine Bougie (guitar), Brennan Cameron (keys), Paul Bergeson (bass), and Joshua Van Tassel (drums). “You are ahead by a century / You are ahead by a century / You are ahead by a century / And disappointing you is gettin’ me down.”
Learn more about Celeigh Cardinal here: https://www.celeighcardinal.com/
Photo credit: Sheena Zilinski