CHRISTA COUTURE – Long Time Leaving (Black Hen Music BHCD0079)

Long Time LeavingA Canadian of First Nations heritage, Edmonton born Couture comes with the sort of backstory that would earn her an instant spot on the X-Factor, losing a leg to cancer as a teenager and two sons, one just after birth and the other at 14 months. Perhaps understandably, her work is often rooted in grief and loss, her songs a mixture of despair and hope. Yet there’s nothing downbeat about the music here, the melodies as light as her voice is pure, perfect for summer listening even if, as a break-up album born of post tragedy divorce , the lyrics may be overcast.

With an intro that could have come from George Harrison, melodically undulating opening track, ‘The Slaughter’, deals with sexual exploration, offering herself up to both men and women both women and men while the divorce is specifically addressed in the lightly Broadway musical tinged ‘Separation/Agreement’, as she sings “the hallways are lined with boxes neatly stacked. This is what eight years looks like packed”, and more obliquely in the piano led, carnival waltzing ‘Zookeeper’, a witty take on marriage counseling with the couple as wild animals in unlocked cages.

Produced by Steve Dawson, who also provides assorted guitars it shifts from wistful clinging to hope regret (the tumbling lush 60s flavoured pop of ‘If I Still Love You’ and the pedal steel washed Nashville country ‘Alone In This’ to the drowning pain in drink of the folksy tumbling ‘When It Gets Dark Again’ with its catchy chorus, from the giddy lovestruck, nigh vaudeville ‘Lovely Like You’ with its Weissenborn, ukulele and Fats Kaplin on fiddle to the barbed and bitter old tyme slow waltzing ‘Solid Ground’ where she sings “My heart is filled with arsenic and it seeps out from time to time in these lines.”

Elsewhere there’s shades of Tori Amos to ‘In The Papers’ with its circling piano motif and keening steel, a ditty about the ensuing gossip after a night on the tiles, ‘Michigan Postcript’ is using life on the road with its arrivals and departures as a way of escape while ‘That Little Part Of My Heart’ is a prowling electric blues that borrows the children’s king of the castle playground game in which the protagonist seems to be burying any emotions and fear of being hurt by playing the part of a sexual predator.

It all ends with Couture on tinkling piano and Dawson on pump organ for ‘Aux Oiseaux’, another number with musical theatre blood in its veins, closing on a hopeful note as she sings “I’m glad we’re here in this dump. If together is all that we’ve got it’s enough for us not to give up.” Insightful, honest and immensely hummable, this is classy stuff, haute couture you might say.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘That Little Part Of My Heart’ – official video: