Wednesday, February 8, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 968: Annabelle Chvostek

It’s a blizzard out there! At least what counts for a blizzard here on southern Vancouver Island. I enjoyed the walk home in the snow with coworkers, but it took away listening time, so I sat quietly and finished that process at home so I could write this review tonight.

Disc 968 is…Resilience
Artist: Annabelle Chvostek

Year of Release: 2008

What’s up with the Cover? It’s a Giant Head cover – so traditional! As Giant Head’s go, Annabelle’s is nice.

How I Came To Know It: I knew Annabelle Chvostek from the Wailin’ Jenny’s album “Firecracker” (reviewed back at Disc 450). I liked that record so when she went solo on “Resilience” I bought it hoping for the best.

How It Stacks Up:  This is the only Annabelle Chvostek album I have, so it can’t really stack up. Compared to other Wailin’ Jennys solo projects, it is not my favourite.

Ratings: 2 stars

“Resilience” is a mix of contemporary folk, Canadian-flavoured pop and a bit of jazz. There isn’t anything objectively wrong with this mix, but I found it a bit unsettled; like a gourmet meal with too many ingredients to appreciate any single one. Maybe I’m just a meat and potatoes guy, musically speaking.

Chvostek is supremely talented. She writes or cowrites all but one of the songs on the record, and plays the fiddle, guitar, mandolin, accordion and piano. On the title track she even does something called ‘beats’. I don’t know what it is but it feels like some kind of folk version of hip hop. I couldn’t pick it out, but “Resilience” is a good song, with a nice slow building power and Chvostek showing off her vocal range.

Another standout, is “The Sioux,” an old school sounding track which offsets the title track’s florid production with a starkly sawed fiddle capturing the rustic nature of the local First Nations’ reserve, and how it juxtaposes with the modern city of Sault St. Marie. It is a thoughtful song, and a pretty one, with a timeless quality that makes you feel like you’re standing outside of a log cabin despite the many modern references woven through it.

Unfortunately, most of the album didn’t capture my attention the way these two songs did. The jazz flourishes around the edges of the songs take me out of the emotional core which is so much a part of what I like about folk music. The choices aren’t wrong for the songs so much as these songs just aren’t for me.

The core melodies are pretty, and Chvostek sings it all beautifully, showing a good understanding of how to come on and off the beat without losing the song’s plot. Again, it wasn’t for me, but I can’t point to it as a fault so much of a lack of preference.

On “Piece of You” and “Racing With the Sun” Chvostek sounds a bit too much like a lounge singer, and when this happens I was drawn out of the record. Since I was having a hard time emotionally connecting anyway, these tracks (which should provide interesting range) instead felt like unwanted intrusions.

There are jumpy songs that make your toe tap, like “Wait For It” and atmospheric dirges like “Firewalker” both of which are good songs, but made me think of other albums I wanted to put on in their place.

The album ends strong with “Nashville.” I could hear a hundred songs dissing the Nashville experience and never get tired of it. Chvostek’s entry into that welcome cannon is a good one. When she sings “oh, the grind” you can feel the sheer weight of all the crushed dreamers playing for tips up and down Honky Tonk row.

Despite this, I have to face up to the fact that I’ve had this album for at least eight years, and I almost never think to put it on. I occasionally play “the Sioux” as a one-off, but that’s about it. An artist like Chvostek deserves better, so I am going to reluctantly part with this record and let it go to a home that will love it better than I do.

Best tracks: Resilience, The Sioux, Nashville

No comments: