Christine Fellows hails from Winnipeg, Canada. This, her debut solo album, was sponsored in part by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and features Ms. Fellows singing her own songs to a backdrop of cello, viola, piano, acoustic guitar, and saw. Now that’s what I call rock ‘n’ roll. Not.
This is an album oozing with a quiet sensuality on which Fellows weaves her own off-kilter lyrics into a luscious acoustic soundscape. Her songs are blessedly free of overblown emotion or cliché. Instead, we find within the deliberate vagueness of these songs a compassionate understanding of the burdens of loneliness and despair, which allows her music to transcend any traces of music school dabbling.
The album opens with “20 Bullets,” a song which captures with heartbreaking potency the effects of a person’s disappearance on those who love them. On “Ruthless,” the eerie sound of the saw is used to good effect in creating an atmosphere of alienation and when, at the end, her voice harmonizes with it, the result is hauntingly beautiful. “2 Little Birds” and “Bright Blue Flame” bring to mind the solo work of Kristin Hersh in the delicately skewed vocals. Her work here also bears traces of Mary Margaret O Hara and Suzanne Vega, the latter in particular on the track “Cowboy.” Fans of Vic Chestnut will find a treat here also in the hidden track at the end—Fellows’ version of his song, “Guilty by Association.”
There is room here for other voices too. The melancholic “Hypothetical” features John K. Samson of the Weakerthans performing a spoken word piece against a gently flowing arrangement of piano and strings and, on “Fold into June,” Fellows duets with Greg McPherson. Throughout, the musical backing is provided by her band, ‘The Red Letter day’, who do an excellent job in creating the warm, intimate feel of these songs.
Ms. Fellows produces a lush, almost orchestral music that manages to be both comforting and revealing. Her voice, whether soft or soaring, retains a warmth and a soulfulness capable of entrancing even the most cynical of listeners, and her songs with their unhurried, graceful melodies and idiosyncratic lyrics continue to flicker about the mind long after they have finished playing.
Christine Fellows has been Winnipeg’s best kept secret for long enough. It’s high time the rest of us had a chance to experience music as hauntingly beautiful as this.