This coming week sees the release of Halifax-based Rose Cousin’s third album We Have Made a Spark. While exploring similar sounds to her previous releases, this outstanding recording serves as a considerable forward step for the dual 2011 East Coast music Award winner (Songwriter and Solo Female Recording).
Produced by Massachusetts’ Zackariah Hickman (Josh Ritter, Barnstar!), Cousins and her team have negotiated the difficult waters of independence to create a well-paced album of lyrical and musical depth. Similar in some ways to more overtly commercial artists including Kathleen Edwards and Serena Ryder, Cousins piano- and guitar-based music has smoky depth that lends itself to considerable contemplation.
With darkness- loneliness, vulnerability, depression, frustration, and other challenges- as a unifying theme, this set could have become bogged down in self-recrimination and anger. Rather, and while the mood is certainly is not boisterous, the disc isn’t without considerable light charm in no small part because of the environment in which it was created. We Have Made A Spark was recorded in and inspired by the inclusive and collaborative music community of Boston: Kris Delmhorst, Jennifer Kimball, Charlie Rose, and Mark Erelli are among the better known names who gathered in-studio with Cousins to work up this collection of songs.
A multi-layered set, the album has a seemingly infinite bottom-end with drummer Billy Beard and bassist Hickman running herd on the studio collective. The relationship that ends in The Shell is as delicate as the sentiment of Go First. Each of the eight new Cousins originals are songs you can just crawl into and wrap around yourself. As a bonus, Cousins revisits two songs from her previous album The Send Off, All the Time It Takes to Wait and White Daisies.
The first song received what I thought was an ideal performance on The Send Off, but Cousins manages to outdo herself here. With a more hollow sound than on the previous recording, and with the addition of her choir of Boston ladies adding harmony, All the Time It Takes to Wait is given a performance that is all the more impactful. Charlie Rose’s steel elevates White Daisies to some strange- but effective- amalgam of downbeat jazz and classic country.
An inspired performance of Springsteen’s oft-covered If I Should Fall Behind is included. Sung with should-be-folk-superstar Mark Erelli and a chorus of voices, the emotional threads of the song are again revealed, this time in a new way with the melancholy romantic shades of the original replaced by a gentle assuredness of faith in a wider community.
A brilliant album that gently unfolds as it plays, Rose Cousins’ We Have Made a Spark is available February 28 and has worked its way into my Polaris Music Prize Top 5.
A free download of Darkness is available at www.RoseCousins.com and a 20 minute video that takes viewers into the sessions is also posted at her site.