Good Lovelies,
Let the Rain Fall
(Six Shooter, 2011)

As some readers may recall, it wasn't all that long ago that a fair number of folk musicians didn't want to be called folk musicians. The dodge went something like, "Um, my musical style is really unclassifiable," when in truth it could be pegged without difficulty. Possibly, some had even managed to persuade themselves that they were doing something never before attempted, though I hope that in their brains, hearts and ears they knew better. Still, their reticence was understandable. For years, the adjective "folk" was as commercially viable as toxic sludge.

How the times have changed. Today non-folk musicians want to be known as folk musicians. I concede that the Good Lovelies, who are not folk musicians by any definition I can figure (unless by distant echo of the McGarrigles, who were already pushing the margins), can offer up credentials supporting such self-identification. After all, all they need do is to cite their Canadian Folk Music Awards' New Emerging Artist win and a Juno (Canada's Grammy equivalent) for Roots/Traditional Album of the Year.

All of this, if it matters, baffles me. If we're going to designate music by genre -- and I have no objection to that in broad principle -- I think we should attempt at least some approximation of accurate characterization. The Good Lovelies sound very little like anything derived from the folk tradition, notwithstanding the acoustic guitars and, here and there, a banjo or a mandolin. (Not even the all-encompassing "folk-rock" does it, since not much like rock is going on either.) Let the Rain Fall, which I assume accurately captures their approach, is all sweet, tight pop harmonies and chirpy, bouncy melodies, largely self-composed and manifestly aimed at a younger demographic than the one in which this peevish listener happens to be classed. While I'm at it, I'll add that Rain lacks the silver-dagger snark and mordant adult humor of the above-cited McGarrigles's recordings.

The Lovelies, a trio (Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, Sue Passmore), are the latest representation of a format favored on Canada's current acoustic scene, namely an ensemble comprising two, three or four attractive young women who sing, play and write. Think of a more light-hearted, more directly pop-based Wailin' Jennys or Be Good Tanyas or whomever, and you've got what the Good Lovelies -- in fairness, more than the sum of their good, lovely looks -- are doing. No one would dispute that they're genuine musicians and creative talents. That they're not for me says more, no doubt, about me than about them.

music review by
Jerome Clark

7 January 2012

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