Smoke Lake is a good bet for those seeking maturity and wisdom at the hands of such a young woman.
Kaleigh Watts, a singer-songwriter based in Ottawa, Canada, has gone the Bon Iver route for her debut EP, Smoke Lake. It was recorded deep in the woods on portage trails and in her family’s cabin, which doesn’t have electricity, on Smoke Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. Watts is something of an up-and-comer in Canadian folk music circles, having studied music at Ottawa’s Carleton University and shared stages with none other than current Ottawa It Boy Kalle Mattson and veteran musician Lynn Miles. Smoke Lake shows that Watts is a captivating performer, with a voice that eerily resembles New York indie musician Johanna Samuels. And even though it’s fairly short and you’re just warming up to Watts’ music before the EP is over at five songs in length, it’s an apt taster for her brand of folk music, one that offers a few twists and turns in that it incorporates the ambient sound of bonfires crackling, birds singing and screen doors slamming shut. Smoke Lake, then, is an ode to nature, and Watts settles quite comfortably in the outdoors environment, and shows that she may, indeed, be something of an old soul, which her website suggests.
Granted, since the arrangements are so sparse and Spartan, with just vocals and acoustic guitar, with some piano sprinkled in, you wind up wishing that the songs might be more fleshed out. And, on “Weeds Never Die”, the tape hiss threatens to take over the song because it’s so laid back and low key. Despite that, Smoke Lake is one of those EPs that’s bound to get tongues wagging about Watts and set her well on the path to being a professional musician. She’s got a tremendous handle on her art, and her sound is warm and convincing. Plus, the fact that this was recorded directly in nature gives the EP a lived in-quality that’s quite appealing. This is a short album that’s destined for the cottage, and if you’re looking for thoughtful and quality songwriting, Smoke Lake is a good bet for those seeking maturity and wisdom at the hands of such a young woman. Watts is sterling and a consummate performer, so it’s with great excitement to envision what her first full-length may sound like, and which portage trail she leads delighted listeners down in the future.