Moving a five-year-old child from Vancouver to Halifax could be tumultuous.
When Bonnie Ste-Croix took her crack at it last summer, though, she took the road less travelled, creating her own book of musical memories to commemorate the experience.
“There were definitely moments there when I thought I was insane,” said Ste-Croix in interview from Calgary as she tours the resulting album, her fourth.
Given the timing, one might expect this collection of songs to be about uprooting oneself or the health of a family (her mother took ill providing impetus for the move). Even the decision to uproot to an East Coast home she was not raised in might form an obvious backdrop, but Canadian Girl is more a celebration of the country than concern over her own space in the world.
Pulling together a road map of interesting Canadian female voices, Ste-Croix’s Canadian Girl gives music fans in every province and territory an opportunity to see just how cohesive the Canadian sound can be—how it all fits together despite the many differences.
“It’s kind of like all of Canada is my hometown, so I really wanted something embedded in my musical history that represented that concept,” said Ste-Croix.
Thus, Canadian Girl traces the musician and her family across the country as they move from B.C. to Alberta, Manitoba to Ontario.
Before taking off, Ste-Croix wrote and demoed songs for each province and territory, and then booked artists from each place to lend their talents to the recording she would do on the road. Each person selected celebrates a portion of her music, she says, though working with the girl’s choir in Nunavut really stood out.
The title track, Canadian Girl, includes Natalie MacMaster on fiddle and young vocalist Laura Smith building a song so clearly from Halifax one can almost feel the room full of university students’ eyes watching the artists as it plays.
MacMaster was the crowning achievement of the project, but Smith too proved critical. She had heard her for the first time at a Vancouver folk festival, her voice dancing across the fields, and knew she would hold her own, even with MacMaster.
And then there’s Kim Beggs, from the Yukon, Catherine MacLellan representing Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan’s Joël Fafard, to name but a few of the other contributors. There are 46 musicians in all.
“It’s almost like this album was me coming into myself in terms of my music,” Ste-Croix said. “It comes from the folk roots tradition. That’s where I always write from, but as this time these are my stories of these areas, I really wanted it to be authentic.”
Thus where she once might have added a few more radio-friendly elements to each song, trying to make the music more sales friendly, this time she stuck to the tune itself adding only what she needed to maintain the integrity of the tune.
Ste-Croix wanted to tell us the story of the Canada she knows from years of touring and playing in stops from coast to coast.
“No matter how crazy I might have thought I was at moments, it really always felt like this was something meaningful.
“I always feel that really all we’re doing is collecting stories for our lockers to tell everybody in the seniors’ home,” she added. “This will never be just an album. I will remember the trips and the stories, the many people toured me around their areas.
“That’s what makes it so meaningful.”
Canadian Girl includes 13 songs and took 12 flights and 7,849 km of driving to make.
Ste-Croix will be in concert Nov. 16 at the Minstrel Café (www.minstrelcafe.com), at 8 p.m., where she will be joined by local singer/songwriter Jane Eamon.
There is a $7 cover charge.