Wednesday, February 26, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1345: Ana Egge

2020 is shaping up to be a great year for live shows. I’ve already been to two (David Francey and the Beaches) and I’ve got five more on tap. I could tell you who they are, but why spoil the surprise?

I’d love to see this next artist live, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s in Seattle next Saturday. I can’t swing that, so I comfort myself with the knowledge that she was only the opening act. Instead, we’ll all have to settle for this album review.

Disc 1345 is…Lazy Days
Artist: Ana Egge

Year of Release: 2007

What’s up with the Cover? There is something comforting about lying down in tall grass in the summertime, but maybe not in bare feet. Too many bugs.

How I Came to Know It: I discovered Ana Egge through her work as a backup singer on a Matt Patershuk album. “Lazy Days” was just me digging through her back catalogue and buying every album I could get my hands on once I was hooked on her solo stuff.

How It Stacks Up: When I last reviewed an Ana Egge album I only had two of them, but I’ve since doubled that number. I’m still on the lookout for two more but of the four I have, “Lazy Days” comes in at #4. Hey, something had to be last.

Ratings: 3 stars

“Lazy Days” was exactly what I needed – a record full of relaxing songs about summer just when I was getting fatigued from all the cold and rain of the Canadian winter. The sun even came out today, and I couldn’t help but think it was the universe tipping its hat to this happy sun-drenched record.

“Lazy Days” is that rarest of beasts – a folk concept album. In this case, it is an entire record of songs about the lazy days of summer and generally doing as little as possible. It sounds like a lot of repetition, but here you can’t get too much of a good thing.

That good thing is Egge’s gorgeous vocal performance; sweet, full and heavy in the air like the scent of a hundred blooming cherry trees, but without all the pollen that might make your eyes water.

I was grooving along to all of these songs when halfway through I recognized the Belle and Sebastian song “Summer Wastin’”. At first I thought it was the only cover on the album only to discover reading the liner notes that…the whole record consists of covers.

Turns out Egge has combed through her knowledge of rock, folk and alternative music and found 10 lazy summer songs spanning many decades, all of which fit together like they were made for each other. I’m embarrassed to say I wouldn’t have known any of the others without looking, but the album features songs originally by artists as disparate as the Kinks, Stephen Stills, Arcade Fire and Gene Autry.

It is a testament to Egge’s skill as an artist that she blends all the songs so seamlessly that you think they are all hers. I’d have thought the same of “Summer Wastin’”, except that I knew the song already.

I checked out a few of the originals and Egge consistently gives them a treatment that is equal to the original or better. Early returns were so good I even braved the original “In the Backseat” by Arcade Fire on YouTube. I usually can’t stand Arcade Fire, and in its original form that was true again. I’ll give Egge credit, though. Her version was pleasant to listen to, and getting me to appreciate Arcade Fire in any incarnation is no easy task.

While the arrangements vary from song to song, Egge turns them all toward contemporary folk interpretations. When she does ‘rock out’ it tends to get in the way of the song. This is particularly true for the Le Tigre cover “Much Finer,” which features a groovy bass line, but some not-so-groovy squawk-box shouts in the background.

Fortunately, Egge mostly finds the songs bones and clings close to them, letting the melody draw that sweet voice along like a river, low in late summer, meandering slow through a field. And while she lets the songs work their magic, the record isn’t completely stripped bare of production. There are layers here, but the layers serve to just make the song feel full and slow.

On “Lazy Days” Egge pays homage to the summer holidays, and she misses no opportunity to press that feeling home. The lyrics, vocals and arrangements combine to give you a full soak in the delicious experience of doing nothing. It may not be my favourite of her records, but it was just the warm hug I needed on a cold winter’s day.

Best tracks: Sitting in the Midday Sun, Johnny’s Garden, It’s My Lazy Day, Wastin’ My Time

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