“Equal rights…justice,” Annabelle Chvostek repeats like a mantra on this album’s closing track, a cover of the Peter Tosh anthem that sums up the theme of Rise, the talented songwriter/instrumentalist’s second album. The theme of activism underscores every song here, both overtly (as in the klezmer/polka-tinged “G20 Song” with its Frederic Rzewski-esque outro of “the people united will never be defeated”) and in more subtle incarnations. Even a slow swing ballad like “Will of How” may have an undercurrent of the rallying cry in its repeated exhortation of “together now,” as much as it shows off Chvostek’s impressive vocal range with its torch song melody.
But that doesn’t mean that everything here is always SERIOUS and IMPORTANT. Activists can be upbeat, too, a fact that Chvostek proves on the bouncy “Foxtail,” a trad tune that evokes the cycle of life via foxes and ravens. OK, maybe that is serious subject matter, but this tune will definitely make you dance while it talks about death, and who doesn’t appreciate that?
I haven’t mentioned Chvostek’s instrumental abilities yet, and they are considerable. Both mandolin and fiddle are shown off to great effect here, the latter especially on the pizzicatos and arpeggiated open-string figures that repeat like ostinatos on the title track. This musical bed, along with the lyric-chant “earth below and sky above,” creates a sense of expansiveness that perfectly evokes a summer drive across the Canadian Prairies. If you’ve ever done it, you’ll hear it in this song.
Chovestek will be heading out on a tour across a couple of those prairie provinces soon. Rise is nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in the Best Contemporary Album category, and Chvostek will be performing a solo show on Nov. 9th at the Calgary Folk Club as part of the awards weekend, a gig that will kickstart a month-long roadtrip across Alberta and Saskatchewan with bassist Elizabeth Curry. It may be true, as Chvostek states in “Ona,” that in Toronto she gets more hugs and in Montreal she gets more kisses, but if folk fans know what’s good for them they’ll embrace her all across this country. See her if you get a chance.
Impressive vocal range and instrumental ability on this collection of eclectic folk tunes with an activist theme