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“I can’t even remember the last time I enjoyed an album this much. It’s beyond extraordinary”
Review by Jonathan Pappalardo
A virtue of the independent music scene is the joy in discovering artists for which the act of creating music is a deeply personal art. Nancy Beaudette, who hails from Cornwall, Ontario, but has made a name for herself in Central Massachusetts, is one such singer-songwriter. With South Branch Road, her eighth release, Beaudette’s homespun tales are the most fully realized of her nearly three-decade career.
The gorgeous title track, where the gentle strums of an acoustic guitar frame Beaudette’s elegant ode to her childhood, is a perfect example:
I fell in love with tar and stone
And a county lined with maple and oak
In sixty-one with three kids in tow
Mom and dad bought a place there and made it home
I spent my summers on a steel blue bike
Weaving shoulder to shoulder like wind in a kite
Dreaming big and reaching high
Riding further and further out on my own
The image of a girl and her bike surfaces again on “Ride On,” a wispy ballad chronicling a daughter’s relationship with her father. The track, co-written by Beaudette, Kerry Chater, and Lynn Gillespie Chater, succeeds on the fact it doesn’t end with the father’s death, like these songs almost always do. The journey of life surfaces again on “Can’t Hold Back,” a mid-tempo ballad co-written with Rick Lang. The track beautifully employs a nature metaphor that Beaudette and Lang keep fresh and exciting with their clever lyric.
Beaudette solely penned the masterfully constructed “Something Tells Me,” the devastating centerpiece of South Branch Road. An unpredictable twist follows a story that sits in an air of mystery until the final verse belts you square in the gut. I haven’t felt this much emotion towards a song in years, probably because the woman in the song and my mom are the same age.
Beaudette clearly isn’t a novice, as she smartly surrounds “Something Tells Me,” the most affecting number on South Branch Road, with joyous moments of levity. These moments are the heart and soul of the record, showcasing Beaudette’s everywoman nature and her ability to draw you in with her aptitude for turning narratives into conversations, as though you were just casually catching up over a cup of coffee.
“’Till The Tomatoes Ripen” takes me back to my childhood and my grandfather’s tradition of planting an insanely large garden of the titular vegetable. I fondly remember the pleasure of going through the rows and picking the red ones by the basketful. Beaudette’s lyric conveys the much simpler notion of planting the garden itself and the contented happiness that comes from watching it grow. The peaceful oceanfront setting in which she places said garden only increases the joy abounding from the proceedings.
The bonds of newly minted friendship take center ice on “Shoot to Score,” a hockey-themed uptempo number that values the importance of dream visualization. Cornwall is a hockey city, so Beaudette is right-at-home name-checking the likes of Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. The lyric turns wonderfully personal when Beaudette recounts her own memories with the sport:
I loved to play but I wasn’t great
An’ I showed up with my figure skates
And my first step out onto the ice
And I fell flat on my face
“End of Line” is the purest country song on South Branch Road. Banjo and fiddle abound on a story about a couple, their love of watching trains, and the moment their relationship has to end. The rollicking tune feels almost like a prelude to “Between Your Heart and Mine,” a mournful ballad about a woman, a lost love, and a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. I can’t remember an instance when such a memorable walk was so delightfully clouded in ambiguity.
“Build It Up” teams Beaudette with Marc Rossi, a Nashville-based songwriter who graduated from high school with my parents. The lyric details a farmhouse fire in the early 20th century and the way lives were altered as a result. The slicker production, which recalls Forget About It era Alison Krauss, is perfectly in service to the downbeat but catchy lyric. Opener “Starlight” harkens back to early 1990s Mary Chapin Carpenter with a gloriously bright production and Beaudette’s high energy vocal.
South Branch Road is extraordinarily layered and nuanced. Channeling her inner Don Williams, Beaudette draws you in with her natural simplicity. Her songwriting gets to the heart of the matter by conveying emotion without bogging down the listener with unnecessarily clunky lyrics. She’s a master storyteller, which in turn has informed her ability to craft lyrical compositions that fully utilize this very rare gift.
Beaudette’s relatability, and the personal connections I’ve found within these songs, drew me in to fully appreciate the magic of South Branch Road; a window into her soul. She’s constructed an album from the inside out, using her own life to give the listener a deeply personal tour of her many winds and rolls, reflecting on the lessons learned around each curve and bend. Beaudette is already a bright bulb on the independent music scene but the release of South Branch Road demands that light shine even brighter.
“…Sensitive words are paired with beautiful melodies that will bring a tear to your eye and worm their way into your psyche…”
Review by Thomas Thorpe
Canadian-born musician and songwriter, Nancy Beaudette, has once again produced a fine recording that shines a spotlight on the many facets of this multi-talented performer. South Branch Road, named after the South Branch of La Rivière aux Raisins (the Raisin River), which flows into the mighty St. Lawrence between Michigan and her home in Cornwall, Ontaro, is a reflection of her uniquely Canadian view of the world around her. In fact, Nancy penned or co-authored every one of the twelve songs on this recording and each one echoes with the sounds of Canada.
In one moment, she will have you rocking out to a great country number like “Starlight” and in the next she will let your soul soar with her in the words and lovely melody of the title song, “South Branch Road!” She follows with “Company of Stones” a haunting waltz with almost a French Canadian tone. In fact, I would love to hear this song recorded in the future in French. New waltzes are fairly rare these days from acoustic performers, so this one is a special treat.
Nancy uses some great supporting musicians on this recording. A fine example of this talent is the slide guitar and mandolin playing of Graham Greer on “Build It Up.” John Caldwell did a nice job mixing this tune as well, letting Nancy’s crystal clear voice carry the lyrics and melody. In “Ride On,” Nancy’s optimism and determination shines through in a lovely, fingerpicked melody. In fact, this song makes me feel the way I do when I hear her sing all of her songs – like everything’s “going to be okay!”
Of course, what recording by a Canadian performer would be complete without a song about the national pastime – hockey? “Shoot to Score” is a cute, feel good number written by Nancy that will make you want to go lace up your skates and go find your hockey stick. I also like the mix on this track because it lets you hear Nancy’s fine rhythm guitar playing.
My two favorite songs on this fine album are “Something Tells Me” and “Can’t Hold Back” in both of this pieces the listener gets to peek inside the deepest feelings and soul of this uniquely talented songwriter. Their raw, sensitive words are paired with beautiful melodies that will bring a tear to your eye and worm their way into your psyche, so much so that you will be playing them over and over again in your head for hours after the CD player has been turned off. By the way, listen to Nancy’s excellent finger-picking on “Can’t Hold Back!”
“End of the Line” adds the skillful banjo playing of Tony Engle and will earn Nancy admission into bluegrass circles everywhere. In fact, she co-wrote this song with bluegrass royalty, Louisa Branscomb, an International Bluegrass Association award winning songwriter and performer in her own right.
Nancy Beaudette’s music, while difficult to pigeonhole into one single genre, is uniquely Canadian in that it is sincere, soulful and filled with an appreciation for all that life has to offer. At times her songs echo the sounds of Sylvia Tyson and Ann Murray, while at other times the gut-searching honesty of Gordon Lightfoot. Each of the songs on South Branch Road was crafted with the reflection that one only achieves from quiet nights under the Northern Lights. My only questions after listening to this CD are where has Nancy Beaudette been and when can I hear her perform again? Great recording!
Tom Thorpe is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter from the Capital District of New York. He currently can be seen performing with his band, Shine Hill Road, and volunteering his talents with the International Bluegrass Music Association, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and schools throughout the United States.
“Nancy Beaudette takes listeners to exactly where the action is!”
Review by Jenni Peal, Everybody’s Folk Music Blog
A stream rushes alongside a tree-lined country road. A window looks out on a railroad track. Crows gossip above a graveyard. Cherished souvenirs meet odd ends in a vacant house. Kids dream ice hockey fame on frozen ponds. With every song of her newest album South Branch Road, Nancy Beaudette takes listeners to exactly where the action is, into personal stories. Are they all from Beaudette’s own life? Storytellers need not specify, but if you’ve seen her live, she’s told you that many of them are. The way those times felt, what was heard and seen; all of that has gone into the music.
Start listening by clicking here.
Like the time she tried out for the lady’s ice hockey team in college: “college girls out on the ice, suited up under the lights making it look easy … I showed up with my figure skates dull from years of idle waste …” She didn’t make the team, but even trying out was a dream from an earlier time when “we’d meet up at Billy’s place with a stick and a puck and a pair of skates … clear a patch long and wide, drop the puck in center ice …” Oh yes, this Texan gets a shiver from “Shoot to Score,” and also a grin for the heat of competition and pure joy exuded by the song. Be sure to watch the music video below.
Beaudette has a warm, smooth voice and resonant guitar style. Her compositions are full and tasty. And though high-spirits (“Starlight,” “‘Til The Tomatoes Ripen,” “You’ve Got It Going On”) win the day, her story book provides a depth of darker moments. Sensations of coldness are important in several of these stories just like on the smooth ice, low temperatures that the native Ontarian and present-day Bostonian must surely know from first-hand experience. “I walk in fields of yellow and grey … the wind is cold today …” brings us into a reflection on death and the continuance of family. I can imagine her sitting in a cemetery, “In the Company of Stones,” crows overhead in bare branches and a notebook and pencil in her hand. But she could have imagined all that as she leads us into each place, just as she imagined the heat of a house on fire and her ancestral family left out in the cold in “Build It Up.”
Elegant arrangements combine mandolin with bowed-bass string orchestrations (“Company of Stones”) and electric guitar rawness (“Build It Up.”) The pulse of “‘Til The Tomatoes Ripen” feels earthy. What is that, wash-tub bass? “I watch the train lights disappear … how long have I been standing here?” (“End Of The Line”) gives us train song banjo to hang melancholy on like a wooden peg. Spacious piano takes us into rooms recently vacated by the rude surprise of death in “Something Tells Me.”
I’ve enjoyed my time on South Branch Road and I know I’ll return. Her imagination, mastery of musical story-telling and excellent use of sensation and detail have brought me into Nancy Beaudette’s world. I look forward to discovering the stories she’s told with her previous seven albums, and what’s to come. You can buy your own copy in physical or electronic form from her website as well as CDBaby.
Jenni Mansfield Peal is a songwriter, musician, and blogger. Most of her music career has been in Texas, with Dallas as home base. Everybody’s Folk Music Blog is a continuation of work done as a broadcast radio DJ on KNON 89.3 FM Dallas, 2012 -2014.
“This is one of the best folk recordings released in awhile.”
Review by Matthew Forss Inside World Music
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Raised near Cornwall, Ontario, Nancy Beaudette is an impressive singer and songwriter with a repertoire of folk, roots, and pop-centered songs on her newest release, South Branch Road. The storytelling songs combine edgy lyrics, comical events, and introspective happenings that are good topics for musical compositions. There are twelve tracks in all.
“Starlight” begins with a rollicking, B3 organ, up-tempo drums and guitars, and great vocals in a roots and folk vein throughout. The uppity tune is quite catchy with vocals akin to a more mature, yet tamer version of Texas singer-songwriter, Trish Murphy. The song is more aligned with pop and roots sensibilities than country or alternative. However, there is a slight country presence, mainly in the arrangements. Nothing is amiss here.
“Build It Up” opens with a gritty guitar intro of acoustic and electric brilliance. The twangy strings and folksy arrangements are slightly Southern in tone, but the vocals are still very bright and catchy throughout. The different string tones add depth and textures to the chords throughout. The drone of a few of the strings adds another level of complexity, but the music is never contrived or overdone.
“Ride On” begins with a scintillating acoustic guitar medley with light percussion in the background and Nancy’s youthful, yet seasoned, vocals. There are a few distant string drones for emotive effects. The entire song is rather laidback with crystalline guitar picking and cymbal percussion. There are back-up vocals in parts that seem to make the song stand out in true harmonic form.
“Shoot To Score (The Hockey Song)” opens with a rollicking acoustic guitar medley, swishy percussion, and tambourine percussion. Nancy’s folksy vocals are catchy and the lyrics are thought-provoking, comedic, and very playful. The narrative is very clever and definitely an homage to hockey’s greats. The vocals are rather triumphant near the end of the song, as the guitar and percussion reach a climax.
“You Got It Goin’ On” begins with a folksy violin or fiddle intro without any accompaniment, until Nancy’s sassy vocals chime in. There is a Vaudeville-esque ambiance to the song, as well as a twinge of bluegrass and country, which is a slight departure from the rest of the album. Still, the song utilizes an assortment of click, tap, and rasp percussion for a playful and happy result. The tune is only two minutes long. However, there is a lot ‘goin’ on’ with this tune and all of it is good.
Nancy Beaudette’s new release, South Branch Road, is folksy romp through North American roots and pop styles wrapped around strong songwriting and catchy choruses. All of the songs represent folk and roots, while others hint at bluegrass, blues, and rock. Overall, the music is rather inventive, memorable, and utilizes an array of instrumentation and melodies for a truly great result. Nancy’s vocals resemble the edgy fortitude of Trish Murphy with the sweetness of Annie Humphrey and Anne Weiss. The songwriting and vocals mirrors the creativeness of Shawn Colvin. At any rate, Nancy Beaudette is an independent musician and performer with a knack for creating intelligent stories, catchy choruses, and highly-textured instrumentation. South Branch Road is an album that traverses the heart-strings of love, life, and hope across related folk, roots, and pop genres. The entire album is littered with delicious chords, sounds, and rhythms that are very enjoyable. No improvements are needed here. In fact, this is one of the best folk recordings released in awhile. For Nancy, South Branch Road is paved with ingenuity—not potholes.
“Nostalgia is seeping through every crack and crevice of this album”
Review by Alec Cunningham
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
With South Branch Road, Canadian native Nancy Beaudette draws you in and sits you down for an irresistible story about her past, present, and everything in between. South Branch Road 2 is her eighth album in her career, and each of these 12 tracks are original songs written by Beaudette over the course of the three years she spent working on the release.
Coming from a religious musical background, this is only her third album since deciding to take on a more personal approach to her music. These days, she sings about what she knows best instead of writing liturgical tunes as she had done in the past. Now, she writes about events within her own life and the lives that have unfolded around her.
From the rustic cabin on the album’s cover and the old-fashioned black and white family photos on its inside pages to the eclectic instrumentation housed within the atmosphere of each track, this in an organic album through and through.
The acoustic guitar is Beaudette’s left hand lady; it can be heard accompanying her delicate vocals practically every step of the way. This is far from an acoustic album, however; the supplementary instrumentation on each track such as the strings, mandolin, and banjo provide this album with an intricate sound that complements her style and sound perfectly. This is most specifically true when the banjo comes into play. For example, “End of the Line” introduces the banjo and fiddle simultaneously, and the two intermingle with her vocals in a way that can only be described as stunning.
In “South Branch Road” she reminisces about simpler times in both her life as well as in her memories of this road. She traces the development of both, interweaving one story with the next in a way where she begins to create a detailed narrative with her words and we slowly get to know Beaudette.
“Ride On” is a touching track that describes the ever-developing relationship between a father and his child as the year’s progress. From the father teaching the child to ride a bicycle to the child coming to the father’s home years down the road in need of a place to stay. Beaudette slows it down even further and introduces a piano and violin with “Something Tells Me.” In it, she sings of a sale in a woman’s abandoned home. She sings, “Her heirlooms and her gems are now just odds and ends,” reminding us of how fragile life can be.
Nostalgia is seeping through every crack and crevice of this album, and it’s a comforting, fascinating facet. And with tracks like “Til’ the Tomatoes Ripen,” “End of the Line,” and “South Branch Road,’ you’ll feel even more at home through the course of the album if you’re a country gal or guy.
Finally, “You Got It Goin’ On” closes out the album in true country twang fashion. A strong violin solo introduces the track and ukulele and percussion pop in and out throughout for further support.
What I love about Beaudette’s work is how many layers there are to each track. In one minute you might hear a mandolin while in the next you might hear a violin or a banjo. And her prose evokes a type of energy and emotion that only few musicians are capable of arousing. While every track is an impressive one, some of the most notable include: “Company of Stones,” “Til’ the Tomatoes Ripen,” and “End of the Line.” Even if you only take one excursion through it, you’ve got to listen to this album; you’ll simply be missing out if you don’t.
“Storytelling is what she does effectively”
Review by Alex Henderson – Journalist, Political Reporter, Cultural Critic
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Although Nancy Beaudette is not a huge name in the folk-rock world, the Canadian singer/songwriter has been performing for many years. South Branch Road, in fact, is her eighth album, and this likable 2015 release shows her to have a good-natured, pastoral style that draws on direct or indirect influences such as Joni Mitchell (a fellow Canadian) and Janis Ian. One hears a lot of Mitchell influence in Beaudette’s performances, although that influence comes through in her vocal style more than her lyrics. Mitchell’s lyrics can be cryptic at times, whereas on “Shoot to Score (The Hockey Song),” “End of the Line,” “Something Tells Me” or “Company of Stones,” Beaudette favors lyrics that are very straight-forward and accessible. Beaudette, who grew up near the town of Cornwall in the Canadian province of Ontario, paints an appealing, earnest picture of small town life on tracks like “’Til the Tomatoes Ripen,” “End of the Line” and the title song. She gives the impression that she is drawing on her own personal experiences, which makes the performances believable and convincing. Beaudette’s musical strength obviously lies in the fact that she is a storyteller, and storytelling is what she does effectively on “’Til the Tomatoes Ripen,” “Shoot to Score (The Hockey Song),” “Ride On” and other parts of this album.
South Branch Road has a very warm sound: Beaudette’s vocals are warm, the melodies and harmonies are warm, the production and engineering are warm. Beaudette’s earthy approach calls for an organic production style, and when “Starlight,” “Can’t Hold Back” or “You Got It Goin’ On” is playing, one hears an album that is well-produced but not overproduced.
Although mainly a folk-rock album, there are times when South Branch Road detours a bit into country-rock territory: most notably, “Shoot to Score (The Hockey Song)” and “Starlight.” Both of those songs would have worked on an album by Mary Chapin Carpenter or Tricia Yearwood, although the production lacks the slickness that one typically finds in Nashville country-rock these days. And that country-rock influence in what is primarily a folk-rock environment makes perfect sense in light of the relationship between country and North American folk. There are many differences between the folk scene and the modern country market: folk-rock singers (from Joan Baez to Bob Dylan to Natalie Merchant to Ani DiFranco to Tracey Chapman) have a long history of promoting liberal/progressive causes, while country has had its share of right-wing lyrics in recent decades. Yet folk-rock and country-rock, despite their musical and lyrical differences, have common roots (both were greatly influenced by the folk traditions that immigrants brought to North America from the British Isles), and they often intersect. Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard covers are not uncommon in folk venues; country-rockers will perform some Bob Dylan and Neil Young songs (often the less political ones). So when Beaudette incorporates some country-rock influence on parts of this album, it does not feel the least bit out of place.
Although Beaudette is the type of artist who is likely to be compared to Mitchell, Baez or Judy Collins, the intonation in her voice sometimes brings to mind someone whose name seldom appears in reviews of folk-rock albums: Heart’s Ann Wilson. Given that Wilson has mostly made her mark in hard rock and arena rock, she is an unlikely comparison on an album like South Branch Road. But those who are familiar with Heart’s 1970s albums such as Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen and Dog and Butterfly know that some of their early recordings had a definite folk-rock outlook (songs like “Soul of the Sea,” “Dream of the Archer” and Dreamboat Annie’s title track). And bearing that in mind, it makes sense that, directly or indirectly, Beaudette could be influenced by Wilson at the same time she is being influenced by Mitchell and Baez. Besides, this is modern folk-rock, not traditional folk from the 1940s. Singer/songwriters in today’s folk scene were raised on rock & roll.
South Branch Road is an enjoyable listen, demonstrating that Beaudette is deserving of a wider audience.
“Possessed of a gift for insightful songwriting”
Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh Thirty Three & A Third Record Reviews
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Folk music by its very nature is music of, for, and by the people and thus is expected to be peppered with homey hints of honest stories, the good and the bad. These are the songs that speak of long hard days and quiet nights, of loves won and lost, and of the subtle beauty of life lived out day by day with an eye for the glory to be seen. It’s into this musical ring that Canadian singer/songwriter Nancy Beaudette tosses her hat and the result is her latest twelve song collection, South Branch Road.
This sound wasn’t Beaudette’s original genre as she gained a fair amount of acclaim as the lead director of a twenty-five voice choir, writing her own liturgical music, and seeing her work garner a Canadian Gospel Music Award for Song of the Year as well as a solid nomination for album of the year. Yet, while that work was fulfilling, the artist found herself wanting to lean into something more personal and she began crafting her solo material and releasing albums to the folk market.
Three years in the making, South Branch Road saw the artist head to Nashville to work with some of the city’s finest songwriters and producers in order to see her work come to fruition. For songwriting duties, she partnered with writers like Kerry Chater, Lynn Gillespie, and GRAMMY winner Jon Vezner while having Graham Greer and Glenn Forrester manage production duties. The result is a record that is rich with songwriting and delivered with a generally solid production.
Beaudette leads the album off with “Starlight,” an Americana flavored tune that highlights the artist’s slightly unfinished vocals, her tone providing just enough texture over an acoustic backdrop that delivers playful lines like “The way you’re looking at me I think I might/Have the wish, I’m wishin’ tonight,” beginning a solid track record of warm story-flavored songs that really shine. The title track follows and is a gentle declaration of home while “Company of Stones” draws from some minor chords, allowing some rich cello fills to undergird Beaudette’s plaintive vocals as she sings of those gone before.
“Build It Up” draws from more Americana vibes, the moody song telling the story of a couple losing their home to fire and having to rebuild their lives, the lyric hope filled but the arrangement tinged with emotion while “Ride On” draws from subtle acoustic tones to share a similar sentiment of choosing to succeed over pain and loss. “Shoot To Score” is a playful yet easily forgettable tune but “Something Tells Me” ripples with poignancy, the artist singing, “I see love in all this stuff/Just like I do in mine/Mem’ries to hold onto/A place to belong to/’Til it’s your time,” as the piano and string accompaniment lend deep emotion.
Song strong songwriting colors the heartfelt tale shared in “Between Your Heart & Mine (Brooklyn Bridge),” Beaudette painting some beautiful pictures with her lyric as “’Til The Tomatoes Ripen” brightens things up with an upbeat acoustic swell and warm vocal. Further songwriting prowess is found on “Can’t Hold Back” as Beaudette continues to show a keen ear for drawing heart out of the everyday while warm, bright plucks of banjo undergird a deceptively heartbroken lyric, the contrast playing out nicely. And with “You Got It Goin’ On,” the artist ends things with a playful bent, offering up a fun, folksy arrangement that can’t help but bring a smile to listener’s faces.
Nancy Beaudette may be something of an unassuming player but one listen to South Branch Road will show that she’s the real deal. Possessed of a gift for insightful songwriting, Beaudette consistently weaves tales with common threads that, when combined together, create a beautiful tapestry that she uses to tell tales of love, loss, and life lived to the fullest. And that’s a tapestry that demands attention and discerning listeners will be more than happy to spend the time taking a trip down South Branch Road.
“A voice and writing style that can cut right through to your heart and soul”
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)
Somewhere along South Branch Road, country meets folk and singer-songwriter, courtesy of Nancy Beaudette. This 2015 release has clearly been a passion project of hers for quite some time as she’s pulled together songs she’s written over the last several years to make it. Beaudette is no stranger to the music industry either as this is her eighth album overall and the three years she spent making it have paid off rather well. South Branch Road is a lovely album that plays as much to the emotions as it does to your sense of musical enjoyment.
“Starlight” begins the record by being an energetic little country/folk rocker. Beaudette’s voice is in fine form as she sings about two lovers getting together under a clear, starry sky, and the desire for each other that fosters in that environment. Along with the vocals, Beaudette also handles the acoustic guitar which creates a fantastic rhythm upon which the song builds. Graham Greer is the ace in the hole in that sense, contributing bass, electric guitar and the lovely harmony vocals. Meanwhile, Steph McAlear lays down a crisp drum track in addition to some hammond organ work, which gives the track a little more texture.
The piece that follows it, which is also the album’s title track, showcases another type of song that comes up frequently. “South Branch Road” is a much softer piece that places a lot more emphasis on Beaudette’s voice and guitar. Now granted, there are harmony vocals supplied by Jon Vezner, but everything revolves around Beaudette’s storytelling and emotional delivery.
A similar thematic arrangement comes on the later song, “Something Tells Me.” Beaudette describes a household where a woman who lived there, “left in a hurry.” By the time the third verse comes along it’s not overtly stated, but it’s heavily implied that she passed away, leaving so much behind. As stated previously, Beaudette’s voice carries a strong ability to convey emotion, and when it’s combined with the piano as well as Pamela Cumming’s violin playing, it makes it even more heart-wrenching.
“Can’t Hold Back” is not quite as emotionally devastating but its theme of time passing quickly and how things grow still has a powerful resonance. Once again, the stark arrangement and violin do wonders to bring out these sentiments within the music. This is also something that “Company of Stones” does quite well. It’s a softer song but it builds to include electric guitar and a string section. The strings especially drive home a certain kind of solemn feeling, all the more fitting given that the stones Beaudette is in the company of, could very well be headstones based on the lyric.
There are some happy moments to be found too. “Shoot to Score” for example, gives tribute to Beaudette’s Canadian heritage by describing a group of people getting together to play hockey. It’s a fun little song, one that’s fairly simple in its arrangement but is all the more enjoyable for it by giving Beaudette’s voice plenty of room to tell a story. It’s suitably fun and bouncy and provides a much needed bit of levity to the album. “’Til the Tomatoes Ripen” does a similarly good job in this respect placing plenty of focus on the acoustic guitar and bouncing along merrily.
On a completely different note, the penultimate song, “End of the Line” is a bluegrass piece accentuated by Troy Engle’s banjo and Cumming’s fiddle. Because of the mixture and blending of various instruments, this also comes off as the most musically interesting piece on the record. The musicianship is especially top-notch here with each part being played strongly enough to be noteworthy, but without detracting or overshadowing the other players. It’s also a nice contrast to the numerous tracks that opt for more limited arrangements while this one really blossoms.
And finally, in keeping with the more upbeat numbers, the album closes on “You Got It Goin’ On.” Beaudette trades in her guitar for a ukulele and strums along with Greer’s bouncy bass and the accompanying violin and percussion from McAlear. It helps end the album on a similar note to which it started, one that’s upbeat, positive, and fun. The ukulele is an inspired choice. Beaudette’s a formidable guitarist, and her skills translate over very well to the guitar’s smaller, pluckier cousin.
South Branch Road is a surprisingly emotional album given how it begins, and it’s a little uneven in that respect. Nancy Beaudette has a voice and writing style that can cut right through to your heart and soul with ease. The numbers on which she does this are powerfully memorable and can sometimes overwhelm the more upbeat pieces when they pop up. Beaudette successfully crosses the genres of country, folk, singer-songwriter, and bluegrass in a way that will make fans of the former two quite pleased. The path that is the South Branch Road isn’t always a happy one, but it’s one that’s crafted with a great deal of love, care, and talent.
“A treasure to have this and every holiday season to come”
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Amidst the flurry of standards heard each December, it’s always a treat when an artist gifts us with a collection of original tunes celebrating the holidays. Singer-Songwriter Nancy Beaudette, who hails from Cornwall, Ontario but also plays regularly in Massachusetts, has done just that with her self-penned Fa La La.
Beaudette brings her homespun charm to this nine-song collection weaving her folk, country, and singer-songwriter sensibilities around these tales, which are both personal and festive, and work beautifully with her smoky voice. It’s unlikely you’ll hear a more intimate set of holiday tunes released this year.
The album opens with the effervescent title track, where the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar pairs beautifully with vibrant ribbons of mandolin. “Fa La La” is an infectious sing-along accented with everyone’s favorite traditions – getting a tree, hanging stockings, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, wishing for snow, etc. “Most of All Baby (I Want You)” follows a similar theme both sonically and lyrically, with Beaudette singing a love song to her man, the only gift she wants this year.
“I Think I’ll buy A Christmas Tree” is a somewhat ambiguous tale of lost love, with Beaudette coping with loss (either of the relationship or the person) by maintaining the long held traditions she shared with this special someone. It’s an effecting tale either way, and thankfully a lot more substantive than it appears on first listen. Beaudette tackles those feelings again on “Merry Christmas To Me,” where she decides not to be sad and “offer a toast to your memory.”
The majority of Fa La La retains that substance and the record benefits greatly as a result. The holiday season brings with it a wide array of emotions and Beaudette captures them beautifully. “Silence Tonight” stunningly portrays war-torn families and the effect it has on mothers, always praying for their son’s protection. It’s a perspective I’ve found is often ignored in war themed material, so I’m glad to see Beaudette rectify that here with such wonderful results.
Even better are “In Our Home,” a reflection on family and “Silvertone Guitar,” which chronicles her musical journey with the guitar that started it all. “In Our Home” is wonderful, overflowing with personal details from the Christmases of Beaudette’s childhood framed with the hook, “the most perfect yuletide story that I know, was in our home.” She approaches the lovely “Silvertone Guitar” much the same way; only it’s her musical journey taking center stage. There’ve been myriads of guitar tribute songs over the years, but they’re rarely packed with this much insight into the singer’s life. They’re my two favorite songs on the album because of the amount of detail she brought to the lyrics.
Fa La La is a treasure to have this and every holiday season to come. Beaudette slyly starts the album on a lighter note, thinking your in for a much different collection then you get, a smart move, because it makes you appreciate the deeper moments that much more. While I love the production and lyrical content, I’m most enthralled with Beaudette’s voice, a treasure that sounds like it was born to sing Christmas music. If you’re a fan of holiday music (and lets face it, who isn’t?) then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Fa La La. You won’t be disappointed.
“Story(s) play out as seamless as a motion picture”
Bill Copeland Music News
Nancy Beaudette calls her Christmas CD Fa La La and the warm rhythm everybody associates with that refrain sums up the entire album. Beaudette has loaded this CD like a Christmas stocking with all sorts of embraceable goodies.
Opening title track “Fa La La” gets a warm bracing support from Beaudette’s ukulele and a tinkling of sweetness from her junk yard band percussion. Young backing vocalists Luke and Owen Benedict and Liam and Caroline Clinton add a very special dimension to the chorus. Beaudette put together all of these ingredients to come up with a very likable Christmas original.
Beaudette sings with an angelic tenderness on “Silence Tonight,” a somber reminder that some families have loved ones serving overseas. Mike Olsen’s cello comes in like a haunting specter that longs to make contact with the living, and the song pulls you in deeper into its poignant emotive stages. Beaudette’s chorus with the tune’s co-songwriter Christine Hatch is sweetly fulsome and poignant.
Solo acoustic number “In Our Home” has as much homey feeling as it does talent. Beaudette creates plenty of texture with just the two instruments. She caresses her vocal notes and presses her guitar notes into something that makes you feel what she felt during the holidays in her childhood home. Many listeners will likely relate to this one.
“Most Of All Baby” is a jaunty stroll through bright, lively Christmas imagery. Beaudette keeps sending her silky smooth timbre up over and down the groove created by bassist Scott Rossley and percussionist Glenn Forrester. Each bounce in her step is another sweet treat for the ears.
“Gold And Myrrh” showcases Beaudette’s piano work. She weaves a beautifully thick, rich tapestry with those ivory keys while she continues applying her voice, soft as a whisper, lush as a choir, at creating something precious and rare.
“I Think I’ll Buy A Christmas Tree” is a pleasing confection of voice and acoustic guitar and Glenn Forrester’s bass. You can enjoy each layer separately, and when you listen intently to the three parts together, it’s like a dessert with something more enjoyable with each bite. Beaudette’s rangy lushness caress the ear. Her acoustic guitar persistence carries one forward like the wing of an angel. Forrester’s bass wraps it all up and the listener too in a warm embrace. There is a smoothness here. You cannot help but feel you’re watching Beaudette’s story play out as seamless as a motion picture.
A little heft in the beat nudges “My Silvertone Guitar” merrily along with almost as much steam as a two step shuffle. Bassist Scott Rossley creates a warm holiday vibe here and Anna Uptain’s flat pick guitar playing gives this piece another layer of heft with her gritty, snappy notes. Beaudette rides the waves of this piece with the same lush warmth as her previous numbers. Yet, she makes even greater use of her voice with this peaks and valley vocal approach.
“Merry Christmas To Me” is a solemn reflection by someone who is alone for the holidays. The singer longs to recapture a moment in a relationship so she can once more hear her beloved say “Merry Christmas” to her. Beaudette’s sensitive rendering of this song brings to life the disappointment and sorrow of anybody who has to be alone during the holidays. She does this without falling into maudlin sentiment. There is a special clarity to her timbre here that makes you feel what the singer was likely feeling when she wrote this piece.
Beaudette closes out with “The Babe Of Bethlehem,” singing it with a special reverence in her approach and timbre. The singer-songwriter brings it back to what the message of Christmas is all about. A birth. Not just the birth of a baby, but the birth of a faith, the birth of new hope, all bundled up in one small infant child. Beaudette infuses her vocal with the appropriate warmth for the new child and for the new faith. Bravo!
Beaudette offers a lot of holiday sentiment in this release Fa La La. She explores the holiday in all of its various implications, from the birth of a special child to a person who is alone for the holidays after a broken relationship. Beaudette’s voice, guitar, songwriting and her support players are all in top form here. This CD should make an excellent stocking stuffer but it is also a whole lot more.
Concert Review: Beaudette and MacLean a Winning Combination
April 13, 2011 Morrisburg, ON. Canada
Whether sharing the stage or performing solo, artists Nancy Beaudette and Chris MacLean delivered a concert at the St. Lawrence Stage on Saturday, April 9th, that literally won hearts – and also a new group of fans.
Beaudette offers empowerment workshops when she isn’t on stage. Her theme “run, fly, soar” frankly struck me as exactly the right description for the musical experience she and MacLean offered the audience Saturday night.
The two musicians, both recipients of major Canadian music awards, each with successful albums out, backed each other up both instrumentally and vocally. They have worked together before, and it showed in the way they were comfortable with each other on stage and in the effortless blending of their voices on songs like “A Million Reasons to be Here with You” and “Make My Feet Be Still”.
Yet as solo performers, the artists have unique, personal approaches.
Chris MacLean’s music is often poignant. She has known love and loss and her very thoughtful lyrics and vocal style reflect this.
There is also an undertone of social commentary in many of her pieces. She told the audience that one song was inspired by a series of negative signs she saw along a Michigan roadway, proclaiming that the world is dark and dreary. “If you’re always afraid the sky will fall / That’s no way to live at all / Trust the map inside.”
MacLean has performed in Africa taking her music to Tunisia and Morocco. She has seen desperate children, hungry children, children for whom the world is not a kind place. She reflects on social matters like these in her music, but never, as she herself puts it, in a ‘preachy’ way.
There is a real flavour of Nahsville, and traditioanal country in MacLean’s strong clear voice. She sang a Gillian Welch song, with its ironic undertones, following it with what was almost a ballad, “Sisters of Charity”, about a betrayed Cree woman in the 1840′s. The musical style of Appalachia seems ideally suited Chris MacLean’s voice.
Nancy Beaudette has a strong background in gospel music, for over 20 years writing and singing for the church. The open, rich, full voice gospel style seem to be reflected in her approach to music.
Whether she was strumming a ukulele in a short medley of old favourites, or delighting the audience with an upbeat bouncy spring song “You’ve got a step in your swing / You make the robins and the daffodils jump up and sing” her voice was an instrument itself.
Beaudette is an Eastern Ontario girl, born and bred, and she has kept those roots in her music. There are memories of childhood, old friends, old places in her music.
“South Branch Road” is just one example. It is a song about the line outside Cornwall where she grew up. “The South Branch Road winds and rollls, Like the river that flows by its side. I can trace the years from my birth to here / right down the centre line”.
And who could fail to enjoy the hilarity in Beaudette’s song about her less than successful efforts to be a hockey star in college (dedicated to Cornwall Olympic star Lori Dupuis)? “Just like Bobby Orr / Shoot to score”
The Chris MacLean, Nancy Beaudette concert was a memorable and highly enjoyable one. When they performed, one could not miss the sense of optimism which seemed to run through their music. Almost a sense of joy.
The audience at the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage was attracted right from the beginning.
Written by Morrisburg Leader Staff Writer.