OVER THE MOON – Chinook Waltz (Borealis BCD275)

Chinook WaltzOver The Moon are Canadian roots/swing duo Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell who live in a ranch in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Their new album, Chinook Waltz, is released on October 29th. It’s rather good. Especially impressive is that there is a mix of covers and self-penned tracks. Not unusual in itself – but as I looked at the tracks I particularly wanted to highlight in this review, I discovered they were the ones the duo had written.

Let’s take the opening track, ‘Lonesome Bluebird’. The album notes (good old-fashioned notes like albums used to have before the move from 12” vinyl to 4.5” CD’s) are worth putting in, “A friend of ours gave us an old open back banjo that was made in England in 1898. After having it totally refurbished, I tuned it, but not up to itch, and started playing the little riff you hear on this song. I thought it sounded like a bird singing away on a spring morning. Suzanne was working on some lyrics at the same time about a girl that was missing many of life’s opportunities because she was too afraid to just get out there and do it…We put our two ideas together and we came up with this sweet but sad song.” The banjo is a delight and the arrangement bass, guitars, percussion and some nice flights on fiddle and mandolin. A cracking opening track.

The other tracks written by the duo are:

  • ‘John Ware’, a song about a man born into slavery in South Carolina and ending up one of the most respected cowboys in Alberta. It’s jaunty, lively and a song you just want to sing.
  • ‘I’m Not Cool’ is swing-style, all clarinet and lap steel, – and a perfect match to the title. It’s fun and has lines such as, “Like the invisible man in his birthday suit, no-one looks my way”. Wonderful – and definitely not cool.
  • ‘When She Rides’ is a kind of portrait-of-girl-as-rider and uses the story of “a cowboy’s daughter, wild and free” taking her from birth to college “Whenever life gets rough they have each other”, Levesque’s voice soaring beautifully on the song.
  • ‘Chinook Waltz’ is an insight into life on the ranch, the Rockies silhouetted against the sky, the sound of various animals and birds, sitting by the first fire of Autumn “It’s these simple pleasures that I hold so dear…here in this life I have found”. Nice – and nicely done to a gentle waltz.

Elsewhere on the album, ‘Someday Soon’ is a song by Ian Tyson, steady rhythm, great Americana sound. The track is followed perfectly by ‘Kentucky’, the old Everly Brothers song, Bignell and Levesque vocals blending together and a simple arrangement highlighted by Roly Platt’s harmonica. ‘They Can’t Blackout the Moon’ is another example of how the duo play a gentle swing style on a 1939 song from the UK about the blackout. ‘I Can’t Get Over You’ is the Buddy and Julie Miller song – heart-achingly played and sung. Finally, I’d not heard ‘Darcy Farrow’ for a very long time. The version on here is a beauty.

Mike Wistow

 Artist’s website: https://www.overthemoonband.com/over-the-moon

‘I Can’t Get Over You’ – live:

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