Kim Beggs- Steel and Wool review

Kim Beggs Steel and Wool

With five previous albums, Kim Beggs has established herself of one of Canada’s great true-folk (as opposed to nü-folk, pop-folk, dance-folk, folktronica, post-punk gnarr folk…) artists. She remains unjustly underappreciated, in my opinion.

Long based in the Yukon, Kim Beggs writes and sings straight from her gut and heart while often allowing the internal struggles of her narrators to interfere with their better nature. Given the desolation of some songs, one truly hopes that Beggs’ first-person narratives are not grounded within her reality; as truly written as they are, one could be forgiven for attributing her characters’ challenges, experiences, and pain as her own rather than as allegorical creations.

Recording #6 is entitled Steel and Wool, a warm, challenging seven-song EP of co-writes and originals that further define Beggs’ uncommon musical world. Within its thirtysome minutes are sufficient heartbreak, familial devastation, and localized, situational drama to populate a Netflix Scandinavian noir production, all given voice in Beggs’ uncompromising and beautifully ideal voice. Not pretty, mind. Beautifully ideal.

Written at home in Whitehorse as well as on songwriting journeys to the American south, Beggs consistently redefines the environment of her songs. The natural world-—plants, rivers, forests—and especially the isolation—figuratively and literally—of Canada’s north are found in each song, sometimes incidentally but typically as an essential component firmly establishing each composition’s foundation.

The river that separates and eventually severs a “morel mushroom courtship” within “When She Divides the Town” (co-written with Eryn Foster) is a bleak, formidable challenge to traverse, but no more so than the wandering eye (and other parts) of a “feral man” lacking “a lover’s touch.” A different component of the same waterway colours “Down By the River.” Here the river encourages community and harmony: “play that old song, we can sing along.”

Isolation is further explored within “Whiskeytown” (“I’m sinking at the bar, feeling sorry for my heart”) and especially the closing track, co-written with Kim Richey, which opens with the couplet “I been stuck here in this town, ever since they shut the Greyhound down.”

Within the album’s signature song, a different form of profound loneliness and extreme betrayal is explored in “Not a Man of God.” Over a gently bluesy, guitar-based bed (courtesy of producer Bob Hamilton), Beggs recounts a story one hopes is fictional, but which we fear is well-grounded in a family’s trauma.

Through it all, Beggs (and her characters) are not defeated. They endure. Within “I Wanna Be Your Flower’s” (co-written with Sharon Anderson) outlaw country, tic-tac rhythm the sun shines brightly, with Beggs declaring, “When love is a rock in a hard place, I’m gonna whistle a tune.” Additionally, the lead, title track hints at Beggs’ continued confident perseverance anchored within artistic decisions.

Further augmented by Lonnie Powell (drums) and Brian Kobayakawa (bass) as well as Andy Slade (keys), Steel and Wool is a welcome, affecting, and long-awaited return for Kim Beggs. Like recent Juno Award winner Maria Dunn, Beggs continually impresses: let’s sincerely hope her time for national recognition is also coming.

Listening and purchasing page:

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