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.