“When I started singing with JD Edwards last winter,” says Winnipeg’s singer-songwriter Cara Luft, “I felt as though I was falling in love with music and with performing all over again. Sometimes artists need to shake things up, get some fresh ideas, some creative collaboration, to remind us why we’re out there slogging it out. JD is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard, and he keeps me on my toes. It’s a good partnership. We encourage the other person to grow and stretch.”
And as the Small Glories, both Cara Luft and JD Edwards will unveil their duo collaboration live in concert at Lotus Books Thursday, April 24 (with guests Connor Foote and Clayton Parsons).
Cara Luft should need no explanation, but here it is: a Canadian folk-singing treasure for nigh 20 years, Luft emerged from Winnipeg’s music community as an independently-spirited acoustic rocker and developed a North American reputation as an engaging performer and thoughtful composer; her advanced guitar technique (inspired by Pentangle’s Bert Jansch and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page) also set her apart and above most of her contemporaries. Recruited into the folk supergroup The Wailin’ Jennies, Luft & co.’s 2004 album 40 Days won that year’s Juno Award for Best Folk Album. However, industry pressures from the group’s sudden nationwide explosion increased personal tensions, and Luft has been Jenny-free for a good decade — and much happier where she is. Which is a good thing. Otherwise we wouldn’t have experienced her critical 2007 masterpiece The Light Fantastic, the follow-up Darlingford, or her new incarnation with the Small Glories. Where does she find the time?
“I definitely need some time off,” sighs Luft, “but more importantly: I need a home. I’ve been without a home for over two years now and it’s been a hard journey, never having a stable place to go to, to properly decompress and recoup and re-energize and rest. It looks like I’ll be building a tiny house this summer during our days off, so I’m trusting I’ll finally have a home of my own come the fall!”
Luft explains her current roadwork routine. “It’s so important nowadays as a touring Canadian folksinger to have your finger in a lot of different pies, and not just focus on one thing. I’ve been collaborating a lot over the past few years, and that’s helped keep me afloat, both financially and creatively. I also do more than just write and perform and tour; I teach a lot at music camps — it provides me with a sense of community and belonging, and I’ve discovered I have a skill-set that’s incredibly diverse.”
JD Edwards has been making waves through his self-titled band, which has been an addition to the hard-grooving blues-based rock and roll that the Canadian Prairies are renowned for. And like fellow Winnipegger Neil Young, Edwards has no problems shifting gears between electric and acoustic settings. Hence: his involvement with Luft.
The Small Glories’ debut album was recorded with producer (and 54-40 alumnus) Neil Osbourne.
“The album captures a very intimate moment; the introduction and beginning of a musical journey for Cara and me,” says Edwards. “We have a strong selection of awesome tunes that will take listeners on a journey through time and space as we see and know it. We’re exploring the idea of home with this selection of music, when we’re in it and when we’re away from it. Neil was amazing to work with, as were all the musicians who joined the party. Capturing the moments was easy; painting the pictures and how we wanted to tell the story was where the challenge lay. The three of us were getting to know each other better as we recorded this record.
“There are new songs Cara and I worked on together, old songs we brought to the project that might not have had proper homes in the past but now have found their place, and covers and traditional tunes that have had ‘The Small Glories’ treatment/arrangement. It’s new and refreshing.
The Small Glories (with guests Connor Foote and Clayton Parsons) perform at Lotus Books (33-10th Ave.S., Cranbrook), Thursday April 23; showtime 7:30 pm. $18 advance, $20 door.