Having made a name for herself in her native Canada, the banjo-playing environmental scientist turned singer-songwriter’s second album, Comet, the follow-up to her impressive Ingrained debut, should further enhance her international profile.
She sets the sound and tone with the opening ‘Brightest Time Of The Year’, a steady slow walk rhythm and slightly spooked banjo offset by pedal steel, violin and cello as it introduces the nature-themed imagery that runs throughout the album. If there’s a hint of psychfolk mid-way here, the Dobro-coloured, mountain-air breathing ‘Sunlight Remembers’, another song about partings (“I won’t ask you if you need me / All I want is to see myself in your eyes / One more time before you go”), seems to be flirting with a mix of early Velvet Underground and Cowboy Junkies folk strum.
Another interesting relationship centred track (“We’ll talk our way into a bottle/And you won’t remember a thing I say”), the instantly infectious ‘Comet’ (Maria McKee by way of Tom Petty) itself shifts the tempo slightly, its walking beat gathering pace on the chorus and handclaps liberally scattered around. It’s back to backwoods banjo sound then for the clanging ‘Tiger’s Eye’, a swampy sounding number that bizarrely put me in mind of Creedence.
More of an alt-country persuasion, ‘Dreaming Of You’ finds Matt Filopoulos twanging the guitar as the track trots along with lyrics that are back in the hills with spruce and wolves, and from which it’s just a short step to ‘Like Coyotes’, Ashley Au’s Mo Tucker bassline providing the spine as Dow’s vocals further underscore the track’s strong Stevie Nicks flavours as she sings “Someday I’ll be running like the coyotes / Someday I’ll be running like the wolves / Wherever water guides me I will follow / Someday we’ll be free enough to grow”. It’s a comparison that returns later on the Rumours-inclined ‘Too Bright’.
Of the three remaining numbers, ‘Something Lost’ and ‘Constellations’ features her banjo skills, the former (a swings and roundabouts number) adding cello, violin, piano and upright bass, the latter (all should I go or should I stay with its “blow it down or stick it out”) featuring pedal steel and Logan McKillop on ‘howling’. With Jeremy Rusu on accordion, a similar sentiment of relationships in transition informs the melodically bright ‘Cut & Run’, though whether you see this as cutting your losses (“I should have loved you when I had the chance”) or getting out while there’s still a chance (“let’s drive till we can’t”) depends on how you see the glass. Judging by this terrific album, for Dow it’s positively overflowing.
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‘Cut & Run’ – official video: