originally posted on Saturday, 18 January 2014
I first heard of Montreal’s Ladies of the Canyon from their cleverly placed YouTube advertisement a few months ago. Like everybody, I hate those advertisements, but I couldn’t help but find the song absolutely catchy. After a few times of hearing this commercial I finally decided to check them out so I went and looked for their new CD Diamond Heart (which I found out wasn’t entirely new anymore), to find it in the country section. I disagree with this placement and let me tell you why.
Let me go off the bat and say that Ladies of the Canyon are most definitely a country-rock band, so the placement wasn’t entirely off. However, I don’t find country rock to be a type of country music but rather a sub-genre of rock. Think about it this way; if Ladies of the Canyon were around in the early 70s and released Diamond Heart or their debut album Haunted Woman, which both albums sound like they could have easily been around in the early 70s, they would have been comparable to arguably the most popular country rock band of them all, the Eagles, whom are now and have always been categorized as a rock band.
That being said, I couldn’t be happier that I discovered Ladies of the Canyon, their name clearly taken from the Joni Mitchell album/song title, just another nod to the early 70’s which is where I find the bands influence comes from the most. Diamond Heart starts off as strong as it can with You and All Your Famous Friends (the song that played in the previously mentioned YouTube advertisement.) The song has an incredible groove to it and a good fuzzy guitar sound, but what captures me most, and surely all of its listeners, is the harmonized chorus. Actually, the chorus reminds me of something from the 90s; I can’t figure out exactly what, I just think it would have fit then, but the harmonizing is some of the most intelligent stuff I’ve heard in quite a while. I’d go so far as to compare it with Crosby, Stills & Nash…and maybe Young too. By the way, I wouldn’t classify this song as a country song at all.
The next track, The Change, just continues the perfect harmonizing between lead vocalists/guitarists Maïa Davies and Jasmine Bleile. This song has a bit more of a country influence to it, substituting the fuzzy electric guitars with acoustic guitars. The electric guitars are brought back for the somewhat bluesy Let’s Take The Night and the VERY 70s sounding Black Water.
The album is pretty evenly split with nice jam worthy rock songs and sweet sounding softer songs. Softer/slower songs on the album include slow grooving, almost psychedelic Two Moons, the soulful Dear John and the somewhat gloomy heartbreak track What We Had. Then there are the folk songs like Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and People of the Sun. People of the Sun in particular is one of many moments on the album that I feel is far ahead of its time. Yet another of the many tracks that I believe CSN/CSNY would be proud to hear.
The album stills has its rockers just like what were heard earlier on the album. The title track Diamond Heart has that fuzzy guitar groove that the band uses that I love, and the way that they mix their harmonized vocals in to such a dark sounding track is just eerily good. The song’s thumping bass drum seems to get louder as the song goes on. The last of these rockers is the blues track She Crossed The River, keeping that signature harmonizing of the vocals, with a bit of country twang, and that same bass drum beat. But it’s the slide guitar, done by Colin Cripps that makes this track so good.
The album ends with Alameda, 1947, the last of the albums folk songs. This time the Ladies incorporate a piano sound to, rather effectively, change things up. While this song stands up against just about every other song on the album, I’m not sure it’s what I’d have ended the album with. I may have switched the last two tracks and made She Crossed The River the closer. That would have rounded off the album well, starting with a rocker and ending with one, reminding listeners of the bands capabilities. Alameda, 1947 is by all means a good closer to the album, though; it just lacks the punch that I believe an album should end with.
I believe Diamond Heart and Ladies of the Canyon in general to be one of the best discoveries I’ve made in recent months. It is like nothing I really hear anymore out of new bands, and even from many classic rock artists releasing new material. Well, Neil Young can still belt out a good old time rock record just like in his prime. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. But anyway, Diamond Heart only makes me want to hear more by Ladies of the Canyon. I can’t wait to hear what the future has in store from these gifted musicians.
“You and All Your Famous Friends” – It would seem like the obvious choice. This song puts the bands talent in a nutshell. It shows the band can rock, and it shows that they know how to write a hell of a song. It shows listeners that these Ladies are old souls recording music that sounds too good to be new. And of course I have to mention those harmonized vocals. Once a listener hears those, they are sure to be hooked. I’m sure of it.
9 (Out of 10)
|You and All Your Famous Friends||3:32|
|Let’s Take The Night||3:52|
|People of the Sun||4:11|
|What We Had||3:54|
|Babe I’m Gonna Leave You||5:51|
|She Crossed The River||4:03|