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”:
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.