The Small Glories—Assiniboine and The Red

2019, Compass/Red House


The sound—roots music with banjo and guitar riding the edge of a driving beat. And then there is the thrill of the harmonies, with Cara Luft and JD Edwards blending their voices into a glorious third thing. “Long Long Moon” with its ancient theme of a lover lost at sea, embodies a lot of what makes The Small Glories unique and exciting. Even with a foundation of clawhammer banjo and body percussion, there is nothing “small” about the sound, with booming bass drum and layered vocals. Their songwriting works on many levels, triggered by details of story and place, shaping melodic songs full of hooks and melodies that echo in your head for days. The album takes its title from the confluence of two rivers in Winnipeg. Three of the songs specifically reflect their Canadian roots, “Alberta,” in which a lover comes in second to the allure of the province, “Johnson Slide,” a first person elegy set in the disastrous mudslide that befell a remote valley and “Winnipeg,” a whimsical song that could win a chamber of commerce contest conducted by the city. The rousing “Don’t Back Down,” with high register banjo, accordion and fiddle has a Celtic feel as it supplies a soundtrack to face down hard times. This song really needs to be in a stand up and cheer kind of movie! “Pieces of Me” stands out sonically with its guitar amp reverb cranked up enough to produce coiling artifacts to match the duo’s vocal vibrato. This album has something new to discover each time you listen, an unusual harmony, an idiosyncratic bend of a note, a haunting turn of phrase… and you will probably want to give yourself a lot of opportunities for such discovery! —Michael Devlin

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