December 1, 2011

each heartstring of mine is broken in time

There is a powerful new voice signed to Arts & Crafts Records (who gave us Feist, Broken Social Scene, Stars, Dan Mangan, The Dears, Apostle of Hustle, and many other of my personal favorites) — and whoa is Cold Specks ever sounding like something to be reckoned with. She’s 23, she’s from outside Toronto, and listen to this:

I have listened to her version of “Old Stepstone” about a dozen times since first hearing about her yesterday, and still, every time, I’m gettin’ these chills. Her voice is rich and powerful molasses, like Mahalia or some divinely mournful gospel singer. It operates on my spinal column each time she starts in with a thousand tingles tapping into some collective grief. She cites the Lomax Field Recordings and James Carr as influences, along with Bill Callahan and Tom Waits; I hear it all.

Her version of “Old Stepstone” is being released as the b-side backing her debut single, “Holland”:

Cold Specks – Holland by Arts & Crafts

She’ll be touring in support of St. Vincent on some Canadian dates this winter, and her Holland single comes out on 7″ on December 13. I am fascinated to hear what comes next.

Related ephemera: “Old Stepstone” is a traditional American song and I can’t determine the original author, but I know Bonnie “Prince” Billy also played it on his Daytrotter back in 2006:

Goodbye Dear Old Stepstone – Bonnie “Prince” Billy

And here is a version of Tallest Man on Earth performing the same song, back in 2008:

No offense to the white guys, but whoa is her version ever in a different ballpark.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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