Having trained as a classical cellist, earning Masters in cello performance from the University of Ottawa, Janelle began dipping her toes in the popular music world playing live with the likes of Kanye West and Bruce Cockburn before getting into folk with her 2009 collaboration with fellow Canadian – and now husband – James Hill on True Love Don’t Weep which went on to win a Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year. Since then she’s released two solo albums, I Didn’t Want To Break It being her third.
There’s a decidedly poppy air to the album opener, ‘The End Of The World’ a bubbling buoyant affair, despite the break up lyrics, which surely owes a debt of influence to the Lumineers. From here, things get crunchier on the fiddle scraping, handclap worksong rhythm of ‘Will You’ before her country inclinations surface with the infectious tumbling chords of the Hill co-penned ‘Feeling Beautiful’, a track which shows off her clear, pure vocal to perfection, reminding me of She And Him’s Zooey Deschanel.
Running up to the brief cello instrumental of ‘Interlude 1’, the title track is an airy piano and strings ballad while ‘Knocking At My Door’ is a bluesier gospel-tinged percussive number with snarly electric guitar that shows she can muddy up her clear stream vocals with gutsier notes when the song demands.
The four track mid-section gets under way with the missed opportunities of the acoustic plucked shuffling ‘Time To Go’, progressing through the lovely waltzing, bluegrass-dappled ‘The Moth And The Light’, a song that basically questions whether the light of love is worth getting burned.
It’s feet to the floor for the hearts in a whirl, let’s take off together hoedown stomping ‘I’ll Leave Me’ while ‘Keeper Of My Garden’ is decidedly more of an r&b shaded shuffle that, in another life, might well have been done by Sister Sledge.
Another cello interlude, this time with a descending piano scale, opens the door to the final clutch of four, headed up by ‘Triangle Of Light’, a feelgood Paul Simonesque township calypso featuring Bakithi Kumalo on electric five string bass and Nick Fisher on sax, the only instruments on the album not played by either Janelle or Hill.
If that’s all sunshine, on the bluesy lurching march beat ‘In The Morning’ it’s been grey for days, but even so, the mood is on the bright side as she sings “don’t you get the feeling we’re gonna have a good time tonight”. The penultimate cello-adorned ‘Butterfly’, like the previous insect-titled track, is again about embracing love tonight, never knowing what tomorrow brings, leaving the cello and dobro-accompanied ‘Friend Of Mine’ to close proceedings with a beautiful bittersweet lullabying reminiscence of someone whose life fell apart (“he smelled of smoke and broken dreams”), Hill’s whistling adding a note of wistful sadness.
Although initially attracted by the opening track, the more I’ve played this, the more the whole album has cast a beguiling spell. It won’t change your life, but it will certainly make it a whole lot sweeter for three quarters of an hour. As she says, “what do you say we have another good time tonight?”
Artist’s website: www.annejanelle.com
Album teaser video: