Edmonton’s Maria Dunn has long been one of Alberta’s most impressive singer-songwriters, and on her fourth album she has again set the bar for lyrical intelligence and musical acuity.
The Peddler has more in common with 2001’s For a Song than her more recent historically-drenched We Were Good People, and Dunn has again populated her music with characters real and imagined. Joined by long-time collaborators Shannon Johnson and The McDades, as well as guitarist Simon Marion, Dunn’s sweet and gentle manner tempers the darkness that shades many of her songs. Her voice and phrasing, as well as her blending of Scots-Irish folk sounds, are immediately and appreciatively identifiable.
Dunn has found inspiration in modern events: a sister’s experiences (You Can’t Take That Away), cross-country economic migration (Signal Hill), and most notably the public spinning of war (The Peddler). The experience of war is elemental to a few of the songs, with Tell Her I Was Brave being most devastating.
True to her folk roots, Dunn has also borrowed from those who came before: she mines the murderous Child Ballad tradition for The Elder Sister, creates a Scheherazade-like fiddler who takes ship a la The Handsome Cabin Boy in Sailor Song, and honours lives well-lived in Chavala, Eva and William McIlory’s.
Each Maria Dunn album has been a gift, and The Peddler is no exception.