It’s a wondrous moment in life when a person finds their place in the world, geographically speaking. Finding one’s metaphorical/spiritual/emotional place is a whole other adventure, to be sure, but physical locations can certainly help even so, as different places have different energies. Some folks love the ocean, while others crave the mountains. But everyone has a spot that vibrates at just the right frequency and shimmers with just the right light to make it feel like home.
For the Small Glories — Cara Luft and JD Edwards — that place is Canada, and that seems to be about as fine a point as they are willing to put on their new album, Assiniboine & the Red, which wanders across provinces and prairies, from coastal towns to inland cities. The album title, itself, makes a mark on the map at the confluence of those two rivers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the group’s hometown.
The set’s scene starts with (and in) “Alberta” with its wide open blue skies stealing the heart of the narrator as none before have managed to do. It closes, nine songs later, back in “Winnipeg” with a celebration of all the things that make life in the Gateway to the West so special from boots and toques to treaties and Métis.
In between those tracks, the Small Glories cover a lot of other ground. There’s the sorrowful life of seafaring fishermen in “Long Long Moon,” the hopeful promise of mountain lovers in “Oh My Love,” and the survivor’s spirit of valley travelers in “Johnson Slide.”
The Small Glories shift gears for a moment mid-way through the song cycle, with “Sing” and “Don’t Back Down.” The former is quite clearly a protest song, but there’s an easy argument to make that the latter is, as well, seeing as it echoes out a call to action in the face of unwanted change.
No matter their message, the Small Glories build their lovely melodies and harmonies upon a foundation of clawhammer banjo and acoustic guitar with sturdy support from producer Neil Osborne and a raft of great players.