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Catherine MacLellan - Church Bell Blues

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 26 / 10 / 2008



Catherine MacLellan - Church Bell Blues
Label: True North Records
Format: CD

intro

Sparsely satisfying second album from Canadian singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan, who seems set to make big waves in the future


In the opening months of 2008 one of Canada’s greatest talents, Kathleen Edwards, released the best album of her career ‘Asking For Flowers’. The chances then of a fellow Canadian singer-songwriter coming up with an album in the same year that not only matched the brilliance of ‘Asking For Flowers’ but, in places, surpassed it, seemed unlikely. Now, in the closing months of the year, Catherine MacLellan, with her second album, does just that; with twelve original songs this Canadian songwriter proves that those comparisons to Edwards, Emmylou and Gillian Welch are well-founded. Vocally there is little to compare Catherine to the most well-known female Canadian singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell, but in her song writing they have much in common. Both write strong melodies coupled with thought-provoking lyrics and have their roots in the folk / country sound. While Joni Mitchell has her own vocal style which can take a while to become accustomed to, MacLellan’s vocals touch the spot from the very first line she sings on this album. All too often the word ‘pure’ is used when describing female singers, especially from the folk genre, but for once it is entirely justified when describing MacLellan’s vocals. There is also warmth to MacLellan’s voice in spite of this collection of songs being written during the autumn / winter; there is comfort to be taken in her vocals. Listening to this album is like sitting in front of a blazing log fire with a special friend, lazing away the hours while the snow falls in thick, white blankets outside. You are so wrapped up in it you just don’t want it to end. The songs are produced by James Phillips who also plays a variety of instruments on the album and the sparse setting; that stripped - back sound, is superbly suited to this set of songs. It’s a winter album for sure, a feeling of melancholy prevails but that voice stops the songs from falling into self-pity and the melodies, gentle and soothing as they are, never stray from being compelling and Phillips has injected a few unexpected touches here and there to make sure the interest is maintained. Lyrically MacLellan touches on everyday subjects we can all relate to, the title song concerns her doubts over her forthcoming marriage and birth of her child. “We’ve got many things to decide, and it’s keeping me awake at night”…”When there ain’t no money I’m sure we’ll work things out”… MacLellan still sings sweetly but Phillip’s excellent electric guitar lifts the song and adds a tougher edge to the song underlining the fear in MacLellan’s lyrics. MacLellan also touches upon her wedding day in what could well be the most touching song ever written to a much-missed father ( with the exception of Billy Bragg’s ‘Tank Park Salute’ of course). The closing song, ‘Long Time’ is a tribute to Gene MacLellan, a gifted songwriter who composed ‘Snowbird’ which was made popular by Anne Murray and ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand’ which has been covered by many artists through the years. Confessing in the song that she needs his guidance at this crossroads in her life and that she’s “Got your old 45s on the turntable” and reminisces over “All those old photographs of days we can’t get back” it’s an affecting way to close the album. Although her lyrics and voice are the most satisfying aspects of these twelve songs the guitars which dominate the songs, both acoustic and electric and which are totally handled by MacLellan and Phillips, are also worthy of mention. Phillips has captured a certain sound here with those guitars, one that compliments MacLellan’s vocals perfectly. Not a world-changing album then, but not just another female singer-songwriter who can pen a decent tune. MacLellan’s vocals place her near the top of A-list female singers and when it comes to writing lyrics that talk for the average man / woman then there are few just now who come close to her. On tour in England through November and December try to catch her now, this Canadian is going to make some mighty big waves in the future.



Track Listing:-
1 Dreams Dissolve
2 Emily's Song
3 River Valley Plains
4 Too Easy
5 There You Are
6 The Long Way Home
7 Stronger
8 Snow Day
9 Church Bell Blues
10 January Song
11 Brave Love
12 Long Time


Label Links:-
http://truenorthrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/tnrecords
https://twitter.com/truenorthrecord
http://truenorthrecords.tumblr.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/truenorthrecords
https://instagram.com/truenorthrecords/



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live reviews


CCA, Glasgow, 18/4/2011
Catherine MacLellan - CCA, Glasgow, 18/4/2011
In an oppressively hot CCA in Glasgow, Andy Cassidy finds Canadian singer-songwriter and folk artist Catherine MacLellan nevertheless to be on excellent form in a gig to promote 'Silhouette', her fourth solo album


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Coyote (2020)
Following up her tribute to her father’s life and music, Canadian Catherine MacLellan releases fourteen new original songs; her first original music in six years
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