Over the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with a monthly Spotify playlist that covers the songs I’ve reviewed over the course of the past month, along with the songs I’ve referenced. And although some songs almost always seem to be missing during the initial compilation, I think it still manages to be a fairly comprehensive look at the past month on JOVM. (Just an early world, December will be pretty interesting as there will be a monthly playlist and I will be doing a Best of List primarily through Spotify as an additional experiment. But we’re jumping ahead here.)
Since their formation over four years ago, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Canadian roots trio Red Moon Road, comprised of Sheena Rattai (lead vocals, percussion, keys), Daniel Jordan (vocals, guitar, bass drum) and Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner (vocals, mandolin, banjo, guitar, lap steel, keys and delay pedals) have developed a reputation across their native Canada and elsewhere for a remarkably full sound that draws from a variety of influences including Canadiana, Manitoban country, folk music, gospel, soul, jazz, pop and Americana while pairing them with Rattai’s soulful, superstar-in-the-marking vocals, and for a live show that features each of the three multi-instrumentalists switching rapidly switching instruments throughout — with Péloquin-Hopfner known for playing banjo and organ simultaneously! (That’s something I’d love to see with my own eyes!)
As the story goes, while the Canadian roots trio was in tour in 2012, lead vocalist Sheena Rattai, broke her leg through a Frisbee-catch-gone-horribly-wrong accident that unfortunately lead to the trio being forced to cancel their tour. And as a result, Rattai spent several months recovering and writing, new material — most of which wound up comprising their latest album, Sorrows and Glories, which sees its Stateside release today. Co-produced by David Travers-Smith, a multiple Juno Award-winning, who has worked with The Wailin’ Jennys and Ruth Moody and renowned producer Murray Pulver, who has worked with Doc Walker and Steve Bell, the material on Sorrows and Glories is unsurprisingly, informed by the ups and downs of the healing experience and Canadian folklore — including a song that muses on Winnipeg’s Roslyn Square Apartment Complex, another that retells the tragic story of an 18th Century French aeronaut, as well as straightforward spirituals, while being reportedly being rooted in the sort of storytelling familiar to old school folk and country.
“I’ll Bend But I Won’t Break,” which I have the unique honor of premiering here, pairs Sheena Rattai’s soulful powerhouse vocals with upbeat and jaunty series of banjo chords, guitar played much like a bass guitar at parts, soaring organ chords and gorgeous three part harmonies at the song’s anthemic and powerfully encouraging hook in a song about resilience that’s deeply influenced by personal experience and hard-fought wisdom. As Red Moon Road’s Sheena Rattai explained to me by email, “I used to own this tiny little house in Winnipeg that I lived in all by myself. After a few years of trying to balance the upkeep of it with our rigorous touring schedule I realized that it just wasn’t working. I decided to make my best efforts toward grownup-hood and secure a tenant for the house. I got a tenant named Tom. Turns out, Tom was a terrible tenant! While this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, it actually ended up being a horrible experience that resulted in my having to sell the house. Needless to say, I didn’t much care for Tom at the time so I wrote an angry song that lyrically has nothing to do with Tom, but emotionally, has everything to do with him. It’s some self-encouragement that people like this that bring chaos into our lives won’t break us. I love the symbolism in how a tree survives a storm; grounding yourself and digging your roots deep.”
While I have to admit that I hope that Rattai doesn’t have any more terrible Toms in her life, the song is both a reminder of the age-old adage of that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that all things do pass in time. But it’s also an example of gifted and so rare songwriting — an earnest song that’s personable, richly visual and with an incredibly memorable hook that dozens of songwriters would kill for in any genre. And honestly, based on this trio’s sound, I’m amazed that they’re not bigger than what they are right now; but I think that will be rectified very soon.