Kim Beggs Beauty and Breaking http://www.kimbeggs.com/blog/whatsup.html
Like Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On Come On and even more fittingly Lucinda Williams’ self-titled third album, there isn’t a single wrong turn taken on this marvelous album.
Each song on Beauty and Breaking sparkles with sincerity: each character sketched, each moment captured, reveals textures of existence. The more time one spends listening to this 15-song collection, the deeper one’s experience.
Beauty and Breaking is Beggs’ fourth album in a decade, and it has been a good three years since Blue Bones wove its way into this writer’s soul. Beggs doesn’t rush things and Beauty and Breaking is more accessible, more challenging that that deep offering.
Folk music- the real stuff, not the indie-pop flab that CBC Radio 2 lumps in with modern interpretations of storied music tied to our country, our roots and history- it’s about people, right?: their family, their work, their recreation, religion, loves and feuds- has seldom been healthier.
Seemingly, some people are clamoring for those connections, supporting touring artists through their attendance at concerts, finding their songs however they can. There is no mistaking that Kim Beggs’ songs are filtered through the past, with the results being as contemporary as they are timeless.
Ancient tones, indeed.
The song sequence of Beauty and Breaking is ideal. Brooding, atmospherically heavy songs are balanced with lighter sounding romps whose nimbleness belies depth: jazzy blues one cut, a sassy bossa nova rhythm in another, and pedal steel providing a country wash over a third.
Acadian tradition (“Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road”) is set alongside Dylan (“A Sailor’s Daughter,”) Emmylou (“When I Walked Out on You”) sidles with the McGarrigles (“Working on the Railroad,”) each providing an original path for Beggs’ influences.
Justin Rutledge’s banjo touches (“Not Only, Only From the Whiskey,” “Working on the Railroad”) remind us this month of Pete Seeger’s influence, while co-producer David Baxter’s guitar elevates the project above others recently heard. Others contributing to this incredibly satisfying album are folks like John Showman, Paul Reddick, Suzie Ungerleider, Bob Wiseman, Kim Barlow, and a dozen or so others.
Still, the vision is Beggs’, and her stability, her musical and lyrical integrity and intensity allows the album to remain tight and uncompromised. Focused. Universal. Canadian.
An ocean of pain comes to life in “Not a Mermaid Song,” a melancholy winter waltz (“Gold In the Ground, Gold Not Found”) gently reveals the minutia of a tired life. “Now I’m Running From the River” is quite blue, and throughout the album, Beggs’ uses water- dew, frozen, river, ocean, lake- those related to it- sailors, sunken ships, mermaids, a rocky shore, whiskey- and its absence (“No Water in Their Bones”) to create a complex, rich blanket of metaphor.
Beggs’ voice- robust with a touch of worldly flirtation- has never been more rounded. Having lived with these songs, her experiences have allowed her to find the vocal subtleties necessary for each.
“Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road” may be the album’s highlight, but one knows each listener will have their personal favourite. Having located a tear-smudged testament to love within her great me mere’s fiddle, here the lives of ancestors are imagined, as artfully constructed and universally impactful as Guy Clark’s “The Randall Knife.”
This is folk music. This is beautiful.
With water at its center, put a pot on and let Beauty and Breaking sweep you away.
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