On the surface, Terra Lightfoot sings folk songs that are heavy on emotion and peaceful melodies. If you heard her voice carried only by an acoustic you wouldn’t blink an eye, but what makes her debut LP stand out is the surprisingly algorithmic electric guitar work that replaces any standard, delicate picking.
The talent Terra exudes isn’t surprising – she was picked to support Julie Fader, one of Canada’s most versatile and precise musicians (and the proud author of one of the most adorable baby tumblrs) and is backed by members of City and Colour and Huron on this record – but the end results certainly are. Swells of strings, plucked bass and cymbal crashes refuse to let the songs stagnate for even a moment and her use of tempo change and cinematic climaxes takes almost every song in interesting and unexpected directions.
The opening number, “Straight Line”, starts with just Terra’s husky voice and some electric, but quickly and constantly morphs. She softens the affair when a banjo is added to hint at a more standard folk color palette, but just as quickly adds heavy plucked bass, drum crashes and harmonies. “Sleep Away the Winter” avoids the apathy and retreat often associated with the season and instead Lightfoot sings over surges and intensity. “Lucid Dreams” feels breezy with nice harmonies but the riff is more adventurous and rhythmic before exploding into a straight up, 90’s indie rock anthem.
Even when Terra moves along more traditional paths or experiments with more common elements, the heat you feel is a slow burning heat that leaps out of the speakers, not the comfort of a wooly sweater. I’ll be honest; in a time where records are released and forgotten even with a steady chorus of people yelling support, this understated surprise is one that music lovers can praise with pride. Lightfoot challenges us to keep listening and rewards us with the important reassurance that folk music doesn’t have to resign itself to coffee shops and late night dorm room come downs.