A new album Everything is Moving brings new direction and opportunity for much-loved folk artist Laura Smith.
Before you read this article, do yourself real favour. If you are able and have internet, go to your computer and bring up youtube. In youtube type “My Bonny by Laura Smith” in the search window. Take a few minutes to click on and listen to the video of this performance. If you do so, I am convinced that you won’t want to miss the Sooke Folk Music Society’s best concert of the season, coming up this Sunday, July 6 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. (Please note that it IS on a Sunday evening for this occasion).
In Laura Smith’s music, real emotions ebb and flow. Your heart is in her capable hands, and likewise, she has entrusted you with hers. As she sings, her strong, melodious voice waves and catches, snagging on a scar here and there, surfing on a wonder, staring down a riddle… As you listen, the two of you go along together; brave and surfacing; calm and inquisitive.
Smith’s music is direct and honest. Sometimes, fiddles and guitars gently lift and carry her spirited vocals, while her melodies and careful poetry dig deep.
“My work is all very simple, earth-based,” says the Maritime-based singer/songwriter.
Her work is not so much written, as painstakingly designed, cut and stitched together.
“Like quilt craft,” she explains. “I make it body and soul, with everything I have available – my sensibilities, my ability to play. So many things come into the making of a song. When I say write, it limits what I bring to bear.”
Smith has already experienced exhilarating career highs. Her 1994 album b’tween the earth and my soul elicited unbounded critical acclaim, enormous airplay, national television appearances and a hungry demand for live performances. From the stages of Denmark to Newport, Rhode Island to Vancouver to the Yukon, Smith has shared the secrets of her soul, laying out for rapt audiences her private, yet ultimately universal experiences.
Born and raised in Ontario, Smith grew up loving horses, theatre and language. As a teenager, she found comfort in the voices of Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles and Paul Simon. Her public debut performance occurred at Smale’s Place, the coffee house where she worked as a waitress, when she was invited on stage to sing a song with the headlining act.
Moving to Toronto in 1972, met a lighthouse keeper, and shortly after relocated to Cape Breton. The rugged landscape, shifting ocean, moon-filled nights and welcoming community made her feel she had come home. “I was very fortunate to be let into that deep culture,” she says. Playing at ceilidhs with her lighthouse keeper (who was also a fiddler), she blossomed in the nurturing atmosphere, not only with her music, but also on stage with a local theatre group.
Thanks to support from CBC, she recorded her first, self-titled album in 1989. The stunning result ignited a blaze of radio and television appearances, a tour and a plethora of special performances.
In 1996, she won two East Coast Music Awards (Female Artist, Album of the Year) and two Juno nominations (for Best New Solo Artist and Best Roots and Traditional Album). In 1995, her song Shade of Your Love was the most played AC song in Canada. In 1997, she won a Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series. At the request of CBC radio personality, Peter Gzowski, who was receiving a Governor’s General Award, she performed My Bonny at the prestigious Ottawa ceremony. Her heartbreaking adaptation of the Scottish chestnut, on b’tween the earth and my soul, had haunted the broadcast host since he first heard it. Of the evening, she recalls, “It will always stand as one of the great honours of my career.”
In 2003 and 2004 she toured major centres to great audiences and lovely reviews. Festival appearances included stops at the Canmore Folk Festival, Edmonton Folk Festival and Stanfest, just down the road from home in Canso, Nova Scotia.
Laura Smith’s gate is wide open, her dreams are getting out.
“I hope the Muse finds me a hospitable host,” she said recently. “I must re-learn how to make her comfortable.” Indeed, there are many stories yet to be crafted into song.
Laura Smith had to take some shore-leave but she’s back into the stream of her songwriting life; ebbing and flowing; brave and surfacing.
I have been a huge fan of Laura’s music ever since hearing her sing My Bonny a great many years ago. We are incredibly lucky to have her grace our stage. As I noted in the beginning, you won’t want to miss taking in this hugely talented artist and her angelic voice. Opening for Laura will be Sooke’s own resident troubadour, Dave Gallant.
It happens this Sunday (yes, Sunday) at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 1962 Murray Road. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the concert starting at 8.
Contributed by Dave Gallant