Wolfe Island Records/Continental Record Services (CRS) (label)
10 July 2020 (released)
06 July 2020
There are many different ways to make a record. On one end of the spectrum, you can walk into a mid-town Manhattan skyscraper, take the elevator up to the studio and hammer it out during your allotted session block. This kind of machine has churned out countless snappy hits over the years. On the other side of the scale is the studio in the middle of nowhere. That cabin in the woods situation where the band all stays together for the weeks or months of the recording, laying down tracks when it suits them, bonding and nurturing the sparks of creativity over nightly campfires.
The process for Lara Taubman's new record Revelations much more closely resembled the latter scenario. On the invitation of producer Hugh Christopher Brown, the Virginia-born, New York-based singer hopped across the border from New York state to Wolfe Island, Canada, an enclave in Lake Ontario at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. There she took up residence at Brown's Wolfe Island recording studio, a facility converted from the town's old post office. From this remote island location, Taubman laid down her folk Americana vision. The confluence of restlessly soaring vocals, traditional melodics both indigenous and country-western, and the occasional dalliance with jazz draws inevitable comparisons to Canadian native Joni Mitchell. Recording studios are incredible places, they can create entirely new worlds from a dark room in the middle of a bustling city. However, it's much more effective to record Taubman's Old Time style of music in a secluded place surrounded by unspoiled nature. Canada is a Mecca for these types of facilities whether it be Ontario's cottage country or the gorgeous surroundings of British Columbia's west coast islands.
That soft pillowy sound of pedal steel intertwined with homestyle fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar glow opens the album with a welcome offering. The lead-off track 'The Sound of Heartbreak' gives Taubman a chance to stretch out into the higher registers on occasion as she narrates the story of a series of hellos and goodbyes. She pontificates on the paradoxical desires of relationships as a steady shuffle slowly rises to greet her climbing vocals. Echoing the lyrics, the band mixes sorrow and joy in equal measures to come to a state of blissful melancholy.
The first of three early released tracks, 'Desert Boy' sits back on brushed drums and slowly meandering piano. Taubman sings a slow-dance ode to the blue-eyed target of her affections. She occasionally breaks her steady croon for the frank delivery of a lyric's tail end, the way Joni would crack a sly smile via her vocals as she hit a line that particularly tickled her fancy. The second early release 'Heartbreak Garden' returns to her favourite topic taking a lightly reflective look back at the road she took to get here and the garden that her actions have created.
'Hookup' gets a bit grimier with a little 70s New York disco blues. She wails in the background as she tells the tale of one of her more tawdry encounters. As with the other tracks, Taubman approaches it with the same thoughtful analysis. The final track to be released ahead of Friday's release strays from the classic Americana recipe to add jazzy standup bass and legend-telling congas. 'Snakes in the Snow's soundtrack to a canoe rowing down a snow-banked river gives the album a depth beyond the confines of the basic personal confession formula.
This record is wonderfully unhurried. The retreat to more natural surroundings clearly had a productive effect on the resulting album. You could record these songs in New York but I doubt it would have the same transportive quality in the case. Taubman was so taken with Wolfe Island and bought a farm there. Life imitates art then that art becomes your life.