Amelia Curran dazzles at Hillside

amelia curran

Amelia Curran is without a doubt one of the best lyrical writers in Canada. She consistently floors me with evocative phrases over simple and charming musical accompaniment. Somehow, she manages to rhyme AND use alliteration while singing intricate phrases full of descriptive words, all while telling a story. Yes, she’s a dazzler.

At Hillside Festival last weekend, she played a lovely set of folk tunes with her band, which includes Joel Schwartz on guitar and mandolin, Kurt Nielsen on Bass and Can Giroux on drums and vocals. Another Canadian music icon and wife of Giroux, Oh Susanna, came up to sing harmonies on a few songs too; a wonderful treat for the ears! With the full band, Curran was able to add some of the colour that is present in her latest releases but she still played a couple of solo songs, keeping more in line with the vibe of her earlier music.

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Maybe it’s her unabashed, honest lyrics, or the way she presents herself and her music, but she consistently wows audiences and Hillside was no exception. On a lazy Saturday evening, people were sprawled out on the lawn while they took in her set. The applause grew louder after each song, reaching the pinnacle as she gracefully delivered her final number, expressed her appreciation and left us all wondering how someone can have so much raw talent and still be so humble about it. I know that every time I listen to her music, I feel that if I could write one song that’s even half as good as even her most mediocre tune, I would consider myself a success.

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I’m not alone in thinking that. Curran has won many awards since the release of her debut full length album in 2008, titled War Brides (originally released in 2006, re-released on Six Shooter Records). Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and currently living in Halifax, she has won East Coast Music Awards. In 2010, she took home a Juno Award in the category of Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo for her album Hunter Hunter. She also won first prize (Folk category) of the prestigious 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. Her most recent release, Spectators, was nominated for the 2013 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year: Solo. The album pushed beyond the folk boundaries that defined her previous releases while still focusing on the strength of her lyricism.  “Years” is the first single from Spectators and contemplates whether it’s all worth it at the end of the day.

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One of my personal favourites of hers that highlights her prolific lyrics is “The Mistress”; here she plays it on “Q” with Jian Ghomeshi.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics. She puts so much meaning into each clever line that it’s hard to process it before she hits you with the next one.

“try and stop me I’m on fire
it doesn’t look that way
you know, I used to be a liar
but living’s set me straight
I don’t come with no disclaimer, I’m like everybody else
we keep our demons on the burner and our morals on the shelf”

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.
N.B. Hillside was shut down Sunday evening due to a severe thunderstorm. No coverage will be posted.

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