As I have written before, the ArtsWells Festival in beautiful Wells, BC has exposed me to a wide variety of incredible musicians that most people never get a chance to see or listen to. One such group is Dirty Grace. Leanne and I first saw them playing a small stage at the Wells Pub in 2014 I believe. While principally a trio, they also had a violinist with them. I was immediately hooked on their harmonies, musicianship, beat boxing and eclectic songs that I could best describe as gypsy/circus/beat box folk music but it’s hard to put them in a box. Adding to the variety is that each of the musicians in the group can take on lead vocals and each has a very unique voice.
Dirty Grace’s album Coals and Crows came out in 2015. This album follows the eclectic nature of the band and features each of the members of the band taking the lead on various songs while incorporating less conventional instruments such as accordians and mandolins. It is fun in parts, and incredibly deep in others. Songs like ‘Barenaked’ and ‘Animals’ highlight the fun eclecticism while songs like ‘Hinton’ and ‘Starlight’ highlight the album’s deep sensibilities. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a suitable warm-up to the album featuring superb harmonies, while ‘Crows Call’ is a soulful lullaby to finish the album. And while I don’t always notice it on albums, the mixes on the various tracks is a highlight and increased my enjoyment of the album. The songs are well crafted and while there are lots of fills on each song, there is no egregious filler.
Two songs that stand out though are ‘Earth Song’ and ‘When I Die’. ‘Earth Song’ is the type of song that fills the spaces between notes through the use of fills keeping a consistent melodic beat. Marley Daemon’s singing on this track is mesmerizing.
‘When I Die’ is, in my mind, is an incredibly special song. When I first got the album, I listened to this song constantly. There is a story about Neil Young popping nickel after nickel into a jukebox to listen to ‘Four Strong Winds’ – I felt like this with ‘When I Die’ trying to decipher all of the layers and complexity in the song and how it was mixed together with the various instruments and the harmonies. While it has a dark title, this song is incredibly soulful about how one can approach death by living life well. Betty Supple’s voice in this song oozes wisdom.