Monday, 10 April 2017

Poems and Songs are Beasts–Amelia Curran

Last Thursday April 13th, Amelia Curran started the local leg of a series of launch events to promote two artistic projects:  the release of her CD titled Watershed and the release of her first book called Relics and Tunes.  I attended the launch at Fred's Records, known for its consistent support of local musicians, knowledgeable staff, and its nearly-all wood interior makes for some very sweet acoustics for the free 45-minute concerts that rival a love-in.

The bigger city centres like Toronto had already had their share of Amelia, as had the national media like CBC's Strombo Show.  Most of this has been covered on Amelia's website, if you are curious or would like to sample the tunes.  (See

Amelia Curran is a celebrated singer songwriter on the East Coast and recognized nationally but within her own province she is especially cherished and regarded on par with the late Ron Hynes.  In 2008, she signed with Toronto indie powerhouse Six Shooter Records and her international ascendant started.  I confess that I had lost track of Curran somewhat.  As a CFA who arrived in the province in 1994, I was not aware of her early days in Newfoundland or of her years spent in Halifax where she was a fixture in the music scene.  In the Foreword of Relics and Tunes, Shannon Webb-Campbell writes,  "When Amelia moved back to St. John's in 2009–where she recorded Hunter, Hunter, with Don Ellis, a 12-track album of daring confession and love's unrequited reflections–she earned her Leonard Cohen-esque lyrical status."

It was precisely that double-barreled lyrical status that intrigued me.  "When is a poet a songwriter and vice versa?" I wondered.  I believe that Leonard Cohen owed his success to a profound understanding of that dynamic, not to mention that he probably would never have been able to make a living if he had not become a recording sensation.  (As a marketing aside, I will observe that the 3-song performance at Fred's was an astute intro to the event that encouraged fans to buy Curran's CD, vinyl album and book and have them all signed.  It was tasteful cross promotion.)  Addressing the relationship between poetry and song lyric Curran reflects.  Beyond the obvious, essential ingredient of music to song she offers, "This may sound daftly romantic, but I think of poems and songs as beasts to be hunted and either tamed or killed, depending on their demeanor."

Curran is careful to point out that Relics and Tunes is a songbook and not a volume of poetry.  The book lists the keys for each song included along with the chord progressions.  It notes verse and chorus for five of her albums, the foreword and Curran's Coda: On Writing, which is a lyrical view from the songwriting trenches.  It is a "this is how it feels" account and not a how-to.  The book is insightfully designed with faint versions of Curran's own handwriting haunting the front and back pages.  There are a few author pics and the cover features a portrait painted by Darren Whalen.

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