Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Since someone asked we'll tell you. Elsewhere doesn't find it music by a Spotify algorithm directing us to what it thinks we will like.
We're old school: we read release schedules, have an e-mail address where musicians can contact us, we watch the skies and read the wind, and listen to what friends tell us.
And it was through a somewhat convulted path with the latter that we came across Canadian singer-songwriter Jessica Mitchell and her impressive Americana/country debut album Heart of Glass released in 2018.
An expat friend -- now living in Australia after a long time beng highly placed in the record industry in New York – said he and his wife would be back in Auckland and we should catch up for dinner.
And he was bringing with him two Canadian friends, the “he” of the couple also a record company man of many, many decades standing.
Yes, that's Jim in that photo with the Ramones, so you get the picture of “many, many decades”.
We all hit it off and when Jim and Ulla were flying back to Toronto via a night in Auckland we caught up for dinner and drinks again and . . .
Names and names came up amidst the stories and one stood out. Remembering her name was easy: a “Mitchell” from Canada? How hard could that be to recall later)
And so we came to the acclaimed Jessica Mitchell who moves between Nashville and Toronto, in 2016 was nominated for a CCMA Award for Roots Artist of the Year, has toured with Bonnie Raitt and Ron Sexsmith, performed in Massey Hall at the Songwriters Hall of Fame to honour Neil Young and co-wrote The Chase on Celine Dion's chart-topping album Courage.
The lead-off track on her debut Heart of Glass was Workin' on Whiskey which Trisha Yearwood covered on her Every Girl album, and Mitchell recently wrote on her blog that she could now die happy because her name was on a poster (for the Ottawa BluesFest) with Rage Against the Machine.
Sounds like someone we should, even belatedly, pay attention to.
Mitchell is a classic singer-songwriter in the contemporary country landscape. She aches her way through deeply personal lyrics (the title track notes you can only break that kind of heart once, Maybe It's Me), and she writes from the perspective of the damaged and hurt (Don't Love Me) and outsiders (One of Those Things)
Her sound is sophisticated but earthy country-rock, there is life and its cost addressed (Tear It Down) and there is an intimate piano ballad in Bulletproof.
Mitchell writes adult lyrics (“I'm a moth looking for a flame . . . a needle searching for a vein” in Firechaser), there are more than a few references to alcohol, and life hasn't been easy – she lost her mother to cancer after a long struggle – so that also her writing.
“I want to connect with people,” she says, “and create something that sounds real to someone. Something that might change someone’s life or help that person through a difficult time.”
If the idea of something fresh but slightly familiar in the world of contemporary country – but from Canada – then check out Jessica Mitchell.
You can hear her Heart of Glass album at Spotify here and we'll have more -- and different -- from our Canadian connection soon.