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Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own

Basia Bulat

Heart of My Own

(Rough Trade/Secret City)

The tough part of listening to Basia Bulat’s mesmerizing music is deciding what the driving force is: What part is it that makes her music so enchanting? Is it the lyrics? If there’s a line that condenses the London, Ontario singer/songwriter’s sophomore effort, it just might be this beauty from the track “Run”: “If you’re looking for the moon/Is it ever when it’s new?” The layers to such a lyric are spine-tingling. On one hand, there’s the notion of a bluff being called. On another, it suggests that it takes a certain sort of guts to search for something that you know is not there.

These are the complex strata of the human experience that Bulat tackles in the followup to the her stunning 2008 debut album, Oh, My Darling, a record that rightfully earned praise in Canada—including a short listing for the nation’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize—and well beyond. Bulat’s strength is a gift for crafting sky-casting, pop-imbued folk, elegantly written and delicately arranged. Not content to strum an acoustic guitar, she gracefully takes on the autoharp and the hammered dulcimer.

The other quality that towers over it all is her rich, textured voice—a commanding but delicate alto of masterful power. It is perhaps Bulat’s voice that gives Heart of My Own its driving force. It’s a record that is very modern in feel and thought, but with a foot firmly rooted in tradition, and which in some ways sounds like its something that could have been recorded decades ago. The charging rhythms and detailed storytelling of “Gold Rush” capture the spirits and soul of the national folk tradition, marrying love and loss in a Yukon strike with a power that hasn’t been heard since Gordon Lightfoot, unquestionably Canada’s great storyteller of national tales and legends. Bulat is clearly deserving of Lightfoot’s mantle here. Vocal and ukulele are all it takes to lift the beautiful “Sparrow” off the ground. “If Only You” is a warm touch of shuffling, austere country soul, while the gospel joy of “Once More, for the Dollhouse” finds Bulat’s voice at its searching and aching best.

donny kutzbach

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