Toronto indie label Six Shooter Records (home to Luke Doucet, Jenn Grant and Justin Rutledge, as well as Polaris Prize-nominees Elliott Brood) has a knack for rooting out artists who carry on the Canadian troubadour tradition. Their latest discovery, East Coast singer-songwriter Amelia Curran, fits right in.
With four albums already to her name, Curran's no stranger to Canadian roots-music fans, but her new release 'Hunter, Hunter' is garnering widespread attention for its raw, poetic quality.
Curran was persuaded to return from Halifax to her native St. John's to record the album, which was crafted over nearly two years with veteran Newfoundland producer Don Ellis in odd locales such as an abandoned CBC building and an old farmhouse on the outskirts of town.
You can almost hear that spookiness in the stripped-down arrangements of the rustic tunes on 'Hunter, Hunter,' particularly on head-turner 'The Mistress', which offers up elements of folk, blues and alt-country in a spare, bare-bones setting. The unadorned voice and acoustic guitar allows the emphasis to remain on Curran's wordplay -- like the best poets, Curran packs so much meaning into each line that the listener barely has time to register each clever lyric before the next zinger comes along.
Evocative lyrics are only part of a great song, however. 'The Mistress' also showcases Curran's other strengths, from the skillful finger-picked guitar line anchoring the melody to her sultry, bluesy vocal driving home her achingly honest storytelling. This recorded version of a song that's been kicking around in Curran's live sets for some time benefits from a slowed-down tempo -- the deliberate pacing works well with the tune's chorus-less structure, which relies on rhyming couplets for its rhythmic punch.
While Curran evokes the lyrical bluntness of folk heroine Ani DiFranco, a more apt comparison would be the under-appreciated Patty Griffin, who also works shades of other genres into her alt-folk template. While she also uncovers uncomfortable truths, Curran offers a slightly more playful edge to her songwriting than those contemporaries. While on the surface 'The Mistress' seems to be a straightforward lament by the "other woman," there's enough ambiguity within Curran's lyrics to allow for interpretation. "We keep our demons on the burner and our morals on the shelf," she sings, sounding both remorseful yet unabashed.
Curran has noted the song was inspired by a "wayward" period in Halifax in her youth -- since most of us will have experienced similar ups and downs in our time, it's likely the emotionally honest self-examination of 'The Mistress' may resonate with listeners in completely different ways -- always the mark of a tune that bears repeat listening.