By Rob Dickens
New Release – Natural Conclusion,
Out February 3 2017
Musically, my 2017 has started the way that last year (stills sounds funny to say that yet) ended.
Beguiled by a golden voice.
In this case, the sumptuous vocals belong to, one, Rose Cousins.
She’s Canadian. A native of Prince Edward Island who now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Natural Conclusion will be in fact her fourth full-length album and follows on from the widely acclaimed 2012 release We Have Made A Spark, which landed on NPR’s “Best Music of 2012” list and won a JUNO Award, three East Coast Music Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize.
The new collection is set for release on February 3 2017 on her own Old Farm Pony Records. Produced by Grammy Award winner and one of the most in-demand producers around Joe Henry, whom Cousins befriended in 2012, the album was born of a deliberate break from her active touring schedule during which she traveled widely, connecting and collaborating with fellow artists, writers and producers—with no intention of producing a new album of her own.
But it was through that process that the songs of Natural Conclusion began to take shape. What a pure and invigorating group of songs they turned out to be. Somewhat reminiscent (to these ears at least) of the great Patty Griffin, her voice ebbs and soars with great magnetism.
“Rose has an astoundingly beautiful voice, a uniquely great one, and I’m a sucker for great singers,” Henry says. “But the big draw for me, always, is song.”
“Joe is a poet, a thoughtful, contemplative writer. That poetry and thoughtfulness transfers to his approach in production. It’s about the right life for the song and the right musicians to make that happen”
‘Chosen’ is a powerful opening track about the fear of commitment, self-doubt (“dodging my heart”) and not being able to live up to being a “statue”. There is plenty of emotive piano in ‘Like Trees’, ‘White Flag’, ‘Tender Is The Man’ and ‘Coda’. ‘Chains’ is more up-tempo, a tight rocking journey with an easily recalled chant. ‘The Grate’ is tender and dramatic. The short, sultry but questioning ‘My Friend’ is gripping. The jazz-infused ‘Lock and Key’ is a triumph with its overwhelming vocals, reflective lyrics and astoundingly good arrangement, the contagious melody run in ‘Grace’ and the evocative “green of Ireland” in ‘Donoughmore’. The second single ‘Freedom’ is a proud, defiant tale:
“The song is about the double-edged sword of choice,” says Cousins. “How in order to have what you want you must often give something up. The title of the record comes from this song’s bridge and I knew soon after writing ‘Freedom’ that Natural Conclusion would be the title as it revealed the common theme I kept running into. Acceptance, I suppose.”
Cousins and Henry have created an emotional landscape full of beauty and conquest. It is formidable.
The pair brought together a trusted band of friends and colleagues at Toronto’s Noble Street Studios. Henry enlisted long-time collaborators from Los Angeles: engineer Ryan Freeland, drummer Jay Bellerose and bassist David Piltch. Cousins invited pianist Aaron Davis, guitar player Gord Tough, Zachariah Hickman also on bass, Asa Brosius on pedal/lap steel/dobro and Kinley Dowling. Longtime friends Jill Barber, Caroline Brookes and Miranda Mullholland share on backing vocals
Natural Conclusion Track List
2. Like Trees
4. White Flag
6. The Grate
7. My Friend
8. Tender Is The Man
9. Lock and Key