A new year can only mean one thing; more new music. And from the announcements we’ve seen just through these first two weeks of 2019, there’s going to be plenty of brand new Canadian music to keep us very busy here at Great Dark Wonder. As I glance back at some of my articles over the last twelve months, I see a pattern of amazing releases that came to us from Wolfe Island, ON – notably on Wolfe Island Records. Several label-mates graced our pages last year, including Hugh Christopher Brown, Hadley McCall Thackston, and The Stephen Stanley Band, and we absolutely loved each of their most recent albums.
So it should come as no surprise that the team at Wolfe Island Records are raring to kick off the new year with yet more great music from their ever-growing pool of talent. With the release of “In The Clear” on 22 January, Toronto singer-songwriter Suzanne Jarvie will step up to the plate first for the label in 2019. Following up from her 2014 debut “Spiral Road” album, Suzanne once again teams up with producer Hugh Christopher Brown for her sophomore full-length album. Suzanne shared some deeply personal songs on her debut album, triggered by a life-threatening accident experienced by her eldest son. “It blew everything apart, including me,” she recalls. “Despite the doctors saying he wouldn’t survive, the miracle of his slow recovery and healing occurred and changed the course of my life.”
As a mother, wife and lawyer first and foremost, Suzanne had never written any real music prior to this near-tragedy. However “Spiral Road” earned rave reviews both in North America and Europe, with Jarvie drawing comparisons to contemporary artists such as Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, and a 2015 nomination from the Independent Music Awards for “Best Concept Album.” Five years may have almost passed by since, but “In The Clear” quickly picks up where her debut left off, delving deeper into the aftermath of her son’s brain injury, and going beyond it. Producer Hugh Christopher Brown perfectly keeps Suzanne’s clear and haunting voice front and center, embraced by a mostly acoustic sound, that delights with a mixture of dobro, mandolin, guitar, violin and bass.
With ten tracks on “In The Clear,” Suzanne shares songs that touch on the pain of addiction, mental health, and the legacy of trauma upon the entire family. Having heard only the opening track, “Headless Rider,” Brown’s keen ear provides some outstanding instrumentation that starts the song. That little dab of pedal steel and violin gives this the feel of generations past; a wonderful homage to the smooth tones of early seventies folk-country. My first impressions of Suzanne Jarvie here drew comparisons to Emmylou Harris, Karen Carpenter, and maybe a little Suzy Bogguss too. “Headless Rider” approaches the unexpressed feelings of Suzanne’s daughter, Sara, who happens to be the twin sister of her eldest son. “Are you the driver on this stage tonight? \ The headless rider needs to take my life \ I wanted all the ones that tried to keep her here \ She’s found a love that can replace the fear,” Jarvie delivers with both pain and passion through her pitch-perfect vocals.
And just like “Spiral Road,” “In The Clear” is another poetic and imaginative journey for anybody who can relate to family tragedies. “The album is another reverie … where the songs reflect broadly upon motherhood, death, intense dreams of freedom and longing for peace and spirituality,” offers Suzanne. “For me, the title track has a melancholy irony; In The Clear is where I want to be … instead, it is this ephemeral state that never lasts.” Having been teased with just one of these ten new tracks, I am incredibly excited about the full album release later this month. Thank you Wolfe Island Records for starting off the new year with a bang, and for once again finding, producing, and promoting some of the finest and talented singer-songwriters in ON right now.