Singer/songwriter Kelly Sloan, currently on tour in support of her third and latest studio album, Big Deal, is planning a duo-show CD launch, with the first in her hometown of Almonte, at the Old Town Hall on Friday, May 13, and the second in Ottawa at St. Alban’s Church on Saturday, May 14.
Sloan, accomplished on both guitar and piano, has been writing her own material since 2008, with the release of her first album, Always Changes (2008), followed up by her second, Kelly Sloan (2010). Her new album, recorded in the fall of last year at Echo Chamber Studio in Halifax, remains true to her her raw and earnest songwriting style, with songs steeped in influences ranging from folk and country, to vintage flavours of 50/60’s pop and rock. However, this time, Sloan takes an adventurous step into bolder territory with a stronger presence of guitar work, varying rhythms, and some added synth, which lends to an even more diversified sound.
“As an artist, I don’t want to keep putting out the same kind of album, or remain stagnant at the same level. I’ve taken a lot of time to improve my songwriting. With the musicians and producer I had on this album, I really tried to aim high, and I’m so pleased that I did. They were all so fantastic – all of them really showcased their talent in these songs.”
Amazingly, the album was recorded in only 6 days, with co-producer Mike O’Neill (The Inbreds) at the helm. For her rhythm section, Sloan chose musicians Adam Ledrew and Jordan Murphy (Walrus), with Ottawa’s Curtis Chaffey (The Split) on guitar and backing vocals. All had never worked together before, and after one preliminary day of rehearsal, four days of recording, and two days of mixing, the 10-track album rendered beautifully blended and polished results.
“The album is also varied like the other two. You can hear my different influences… there’s a lot of 60’s pop, Phil Spector stuff, French folk – I’d say it’s very interesting sounding. There’s some really cool verbed out guitar sounds in some songs, and a couple others that were stripped down and more about the vocals and lyrical delivery. But it’s in general pretty full-sounding for 4 people going for 5 days.“
On the album, a smattering of styles begins with the first track, “Love Is Plenty”, with its sweeping country melody, heart-in-hand lyrics, great vintage guitar tone, all wrapped up in Sloan’s wonderfully warm-textured vocals. Similarly, these more traditional country flavours can be found in the swaying, “Be The Woman And The Man”, the very stripped down, “Your Only Ride”, and my favourite of these, “O Brother”, an unhurried three-quarter timed piece that features an effective use of double-tracked vocals, storytelling lyrics, and a deep, resonating guitar tone that brings a haunting element to the music.
The faster-paced walking beat of “To The Water“, has a very Dwight Yoakam feel, in its traditional musical palette of 50’s/60’s pop, rock and country, featuring upfront guitar work. “Annie Edson Taylor” and “Tracers”, will time warp you back to the bright, bopping retro rock/pop sounds of 60’s radio. I could almost hear The Shirelles singing backup on “Turn To Me”, which drips with Buddy Holly goodness. I also like the vintage wild west mood of “Made Of Wood”, with its percussion textures, prominent beat, and reverberating guitar.
The album’s title track, “Big Deal”, takes an atmospheric trip into psychedelic sounds of echoing vocals, wavering piano chords, a looped slow hip-hop drum beat, and some gentle synth. The lyrics reflect the double meaning of the term, “big deal”, as it pertains to the realities and mixed perceptions of being a musician. To me, Sloan’s new album, “Big Deal”, is her best work yet, and reflects a fearless leap into a musical spectrum she continues to explore on a deeper level.