The Park Theatre is proud to present, Red Moon Road, and Hillsburn – Wednesday, April 18th, 2018
Doors 7:00 / Show at 8:00 / $15 plus fees in advance
Tickets available through the Park Theatre, Into the Music Village and online below
RED MOON ROAD
In the 2 plus years since a harrowing drive down a mountain to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital with a lead singer, who had just broken her leg in an amazing frisbee-catch-gone-horribly-wrong, stoically alternating between joking and crying in the trunk, Red Moon Road has had its Sorrows and Glories. A cancelled tour was traded for some bedside songwriting, and the most fun those surgeons ever had. Still, within months, on 5 legs and two crutches, the unstoppable Canadian trio hit the studio before resuming its perpetual pendulum peregrination from Pacific to Atlantic.
Now, 2 years later and sans crutches, home from a 10 week European tour, Winnipeg roots/folk-darlings Red Moon Road, that is to say, Sheena, Daniel and Daniel (yes there are two of them, it saves on ink) release a brand new full length studio album: Sorrows and Glories. Their third recording (2012’s eponymous full length and 2013’s Tales from the Whiteshell), Sorrows and Glories is a collaborative creation, inevitably influenced by healing and experience. An inspired and multifarious sonic adventure, at once a bold new step in the evolution of the band, yet a continuation of Red Moon Road’s singular and captivating ability to spin song and story into something more.
In collaboration with the impeccable ears and deft fingers of multiple Juno recipient David Travers-Smith (Wailin’ Jennys/Ruth Moody) and run through the filter of award winning producer-player-song-ninja Murray Pulver (Doc Walker/Steve Bell), the album delivers the band’s finest songwriting to date. From Beatle-esque pop hits musing the storied past of the Rosyln Apartment Complex, Winnipeg’s most iconic turn-of-the-century digs turned hipster hideout, to a full-on spiritual backed by a star studded choir; effortlessly infusing a taste of Albertan country with traditional folk storytelling, while including tales of familial Canadiana along-side a whimsical Parisian aire in ode to Napoleon’s, and later Louis XVIII’s, beloved Sophie Blanchard (the Official Aeronaut of both the Empire AND the Restoration), the sprawling 11 song masterwork is artfully framed with original and innovative instrumental work, and prominently features the unmistakable vocal prowess of the soulful Sheena Rattai, one of Canada’s true emerging songstresses.
In the four years the band has existed, audiences have come to expect something beyond your usual concert. Red Moon Road shows treat audiences to an impressive instrumental presentation; the sonic evolution born of the collaboration between three insatiably creative musical forces. A roots drum kit cunningly split between two band members, an acoustic guitar that also sounds its two lowest strings as a bass, powerhouse lead female vocalists, a moustached man playing Mandolin, Lap Steel, Banjo and Organ (often at the same time) and impeccably timed immaculate three part harmonies. As always though, it’s the way the music is brought into sharper focus by the band’s signature and captivating storytelling ability, and how these multi-talented and disarmingly endearing personalities are fully present that elevates a concert with Red Moon Road into a collective experience, bridging gap between performer and audience, leaving your heart a little fuller and the world seeming a little more wonderful.
Hillsburn doubled down on their independent ethos for their second record, The Wilder Beyond. Deciding to forego a formal studio setting, they produced the album collectively and recorded it in singer Paul Aarntzen’s Halifax apartment. Aarntzen, also the band’s songwriter, took on the roles of engineer and mixer. Perhaps partly as a result of the new approach, The Wilder Beyond departs sharply from the folk-rooted sound of Hillsburn’s award-winning In The Battle Years debut. The group’s soaring three-part harmonies are intact here, but densely-layered arrangements and more electronic instruments signal a move in the direction of indie rock.
Not that the album is easy to pin down stylistically. ‘Strange Clouds,’ the guitar-driven lead track, recalls Florence + The Machine. ‘Sun Ought To Shine,’ which features the record’s standout vocal performance, draws on Motown. And ‘Time of Life,’ the closing track, could be a Neil Young song. The Wilder Beyond manages to land somewhere in the vast terrain between Aretha Franklin and Suburbs-era Arcade Fire while simultaneously sounding fresh and coherent.
All of the band members contribute something unique here. Multi-instrumentalist Jackson Fairfax-Perry plays bass, keys, and saxophone, while scoring the strings and horns for the album’s guest players. Siblings Rosanna and Clayton Burrill complete the three-part vocal battery, and Rosanna puts her classical training to use throughout, layering violins on many of the tracks. Newest member Clare Macdonald brings understated power to the proceedings. Her drumming is complex at times, direct at others, but never demands undue attention. It is plain that, although Aarntzen sparks the process, Hillsburn is a deeply collaborative affair.
On the surface, The Wilder Beyond that Aarntzen conjures is a dream-like borderland of parallel pasts and futures, of deaths and rebirths, where ‘roses sprout from stone,’ where you’re king, queen, and no one. But the twin and conflicting human realities of pain and joy form the underlying narrative. In ‘Everywhere,’ which was produced by rapper Classified, the chorus reminds us that ‘The low, it’s everywhere,’ that ‘we’re born to hurt.’ Similarly, ‘Everything Is New’ grapples with themes of loss and loneliness, asking plainly, ‘Why’s it got to be so hard?’
The trick, of course, is to find the glimmers of light in the shadows. As ‘Time of Life’ puts it so beautifully:
Seems sometimes you’ve got wolves around ya.
You’re terrified by the ghosts that hound ya.
Someday soon all the trees will blossom,
The floods recede and these fields, you’ll cross ‘em.
And exultation, jubilation — they’re stations too,
Both times of life.
The Wilder Beyond urges us to keep going in the dark moments, to soak up the warmth of the bright ones. It does that without being ostentatious or moralistic, raising a gentle fist of solidarity and recognizing that our struggles are both utterly personal and universal.