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Photo by Jen Squires.

Interview: Amanda Rheaume raises awareness of #MMIW with new album

By Terry Steeves on April 18, 2016

Ottawa singer/songwriter Amanda Rheaume, is set to release her third studio album, Holding Patterns, with a CD release concert at NAC’s Fourth Stage on May 5, 2016, which will also kick off her Canadian tour. Joining her onstage will be the same 4 musicians featured on the album. They are Anders Drerup (guitar/vocals), Jim Bryson (piano/guitar/vocals), Anna Ruddick (bass/vocals), and Peter Von Althen (drums). With this album, she gets personal with messages of inner strength, self-discovery, and cutting the ties that bind and hinder us from being all that we can be. Each of her flowing melodies are well-rounded in country, folk, and rootsy rock flavours, rich in guitar lushness, and beautiful vocal harmonies. All are highlighted with the signature smooth and edgy tones of Rheaume’s voice, which lend emotion and character to every song. Amanda talked about the album’s title, as well as having worked with a different producer this time around: Ottawa’s Jim Bryson.

It’s about self-reclamation, wanting to break patterns, letting go of things we hold onto.

ARheaume-PhotoCredit-JenSquires“I thought it was time to try something new, and it felt very organic. I didn’t really plan a theme for this record. They were songs I wrote that I later decided to look at as a body of work, as opposed to writing specifically about something. It’s about self-reclamation, wanting to break patterns, letting go of things we hold onto. Sometimes you have good intentions of wanting to change or do things differently, but then you find yourself repeating the same things again. I see this album as having been able to wipe my hands clean. I ran into Jim at some point and told him I wrote some new songs and he wanted to hear them. We decided to demo a few, which he inevitably ended up producing.”

“Get To The Part”, winds its way into your heart immediately with its happy, chugging pace and catchy melody, as does the light, contemporary feel of “Mind Over Matter”, which features some great vocal harmony work. I loved the full instrumental sound of “Time To Land“, that rang out with multiple guitar tracks. Here, Amanda really showcases the strength of her voice and its wonderful tone.

“All That You Need”, sends out a gentle, positive vibe of taking a moment to push away the clutter of worry and stress to reveal your true self that lies within. Alternately, “Blood From A Stone” harnesses electric rock guitar strength, a strong beat, some gritty harmonica, and is another where Amanda unleashes more of her vocal power, with lyrics that speak of cutting ties with bad relationships.

One of my favourites on the album, “The Day The Mountain Fell”, is a beautiful, minor-chorded melody, rich in harmonies and Amanda’s smooth smoky vocals. The song tells the true and compelling story of two children who survived a terrible landslide at the foot of B.C.’s Mount Hays, lovingly crafted in the spirit of the classic musical storytellers of the day, such as John Allan Cameron.

There are more uplifting rhythms and themes in the tracks “Wolf Of Time”, which is about overcoming the fear of moving forward and taking risks, and in the soft, double-timed goodness of “This Time Around”, with its message of losing the worries that follow us around like unwanted dregs.

“Dead Horse”, rocks gently in its sweeping, sawdust-on-the-barn-floor country waltz, featuring a haunting pedal steel solo and more great vocal harmonies. The album’s final track, “On Disappearing”, bears a simple melody over minimal instrumentation, that leaves the listener with thought-provoking lyrics pertaining to history, or perhaps a culture being gradually washed away through time and the progress of society.

One of the most poignant tracks on the album, is “Red Dress”, which was written in reaction to the tremendous amount of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The song’s title is in reference to artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project, and underlines the damaging issues of blame.

“Jaime Black is an artist from Winnipeg who started the project, where she put a call out for donations of red dresses to hang in public spaces, basically to honour and raise awareness for murdered and missing indigenous women. I’d also attended a rally for Cindy Gladue, on the atrociousness of her case. After that, I was inspired to write this song, which in the beginning wasn’t even meant to be a fundraiser. It’s a comment on how we blame victims and how we should just be sorry that we’re women, and I’m sorry that you did this to me. It’s insane. But I’m glad that the inquiry is happening, and people are showing a growing awareness.”

All proceeds from Rheaume’s single “Red Dress” will go directly to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, who are struggling for funding. Also appearing on the single to lend her voice to the cause, is Juno award winning singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk.

After chatting with Amanda Rheaume, and listening to her music, I’ve discovered she is a person who cares very much about where she has come from, be it through lessons of life experience or through stories of her Métis roots, and thrives on creating connections with people through her songwriting. Holding Patterns enveloped me in its fluidity of melodies, its complexity of topics, and its personal reflections of the vulnerabilities and strengths of being human.

Amanda Rheaume kicks off her Canadian tour with a CD release concert on May 5, 2016 at NAC’s Fourth Stage. Her album Holding Patterns is also set for digital release on May 6, 2016. For more info, or to purchase the new single, “Red Dress”, please visit http://www.amandarheaume.com.  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes.

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