Friday, July 3, 2009

Reviews:: The Gertrudes - Hard Water

When I reviewed the Apple Crisp magazine/CD comp, I kind of fell in love with Kingston folkers, The Gertrudes. In attempting to come up with a concise description, I used the words, "simply captivating" and after countless listens to their debut EP and comp tracks, I still feel the same way about the band. I also mentioned that their 2008 release was high on my fictional, "How did I miss this band?" list and in our constant attempt to right our wrongs here on herohill, I vowed not to miss the boat on the eleven member (maybe twelve now) band again.

Their new EP - Hard Water - is about to ship courtesy of Apple Crisp and with some big stops planned (Sappyfest and Wolf Island Music Festival), the effort should bring the band some much deserved attention. To be honest, when I did a bit of research, I was almost put off by their enormous size. I couldn't help but ask, why on earth do you need 10 people to play intimate folk tracks? But Hard Water not only proves the recipe works for the band, but how crucial each member really is.

The Gertrudes play folk music - honestly, the purity of the title track makes it feel like a classic track they've reworked - but with the amount of musical range and freedom the lineup provides, they are able to supplant the most intimate and gentlest sounds with layer needed to perfectly finish each thought. They rely more on sounds, texture and mood than classic narratives and storytelling. On most tracks, the vocals - although well placed and executed - act as just another instrument.

The opening number, The River, is a perfect representation of the band. The core of the song is some simple picking, Greg's vocals and brushed drums, but over the 4+ minutes, horns, harmonies and a spirited crescendo all help add drama and depth. The song seems to breath along with you, but unlike so many collectives The Gertrudes never let the urge to soar take over the song. They don't let folk foundations give way to another anthem. Which isn't to say they can't handle the transition, which they prove on the next song, Seymour. Annie and Greg sing over top of booming horns and the quiet, loud, quiet, loud transitions really lets the band stretch their legs.

The most exciting thing about the EP is how The Gertrudes contrast the old time feel of banjos, ukes and accordions with electronics, horns and theremin (sweet) to create modern, spooky tracks that are as thick and ominous, but also as breathtaking as a dense fog over the harbour. The seven minute epic, The Advancement of the Human Age, feels like it's been given a sepia toned layer, but the band pushes the limits by experimenting with nice harmonies, effects and horns. The album closer, A New Sound, the theremin weaves around the guitar and banjo and lets the band focus on delivering a nicely executed slow build.

Hard River is an exciting EP, and hopefully after playing some big stages this summer the Kingston band will start to get a bit more buzz. One thing is for certain, none of The Gertrudes records will end up on my How Did I Miss This list ever again.

The Gertrudes - Hard Water - TV DESSERTS ep. 5 from Lenny Epstein on Vimeo.

MP3:: The Gertrudes - The River

MP3:: The Gertrudes - Hard Water (Live @ the Queen St. Church)


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Posted at 6:42 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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