Annabelle Chvostek may be best known for the time she spent with the Wailin’ Jennys. She recorded one album with them, Firecracker, as was on board for the following tour. Chvostek contributed four songs to Firecracker, including Devil’s Paintbrush Road. But Chvostek’s story started before her association with the Jennys, and now it continues as a solo artist once more.
The first music Annabelle Chvostek composed was instrumental music for dance and film works. This experience gave her a great appreciation for both structure and texture, and both of these qualities are on display on her latest release, Resilience. The album includes one instrumental, Line of Ascent, which was written for a dance piece. But the songs on the album also have these qualities.
Annabelle Chvostek: Resilience
Listen to the title track. Resilience opens with a rhythmic line played on the mandolin, and voice. The narrator is in a lonely place. As she begins to surface, to reach out, the bass joins the arrangement. Towards the end of the song, she breaks through and is ready to feel again, and finally the full band joins her.
Throughout the album, Chvostek uses different combinations of instruments, and similar combinations in different ways. She has surrounded herself with a group of musicians who are mostly unfamiliar to me, but who are up to the task. And she has a fine voice, and mostly knows how to put it to the best use. I only have one quibble with her singing. In the song I Left My Brain, there comes a moment at the end of the song where she cuts loose, and shows what a powerful instrument her voice can be. She does not oversing, but she invests the moment with real emotion. I would have liked more of this. Some of her vocals seem a bit chilly to me on some of the other songs.
Annabelle Chvostek: I Left My Brain
Resilience includes one cover song, Racing With the Sun by Ella Jenkins. In this is one of those places where I would have liked more emotion in the vocal part. This version is too tasteful for my liking. And there is a co-write and duet with Bruce Cockburn, Driving Away. This is a true duet, representing a melding of both of their styles. And there is an interesting trick here: Chvostek and Cockburn sing together throughout the song, but she sings lead and he sings harmony on the verses, and they switch on the chorus without missing a beat.
So the album displays impressive musicianship, and is nicely varied musically. What about the lyrics? Good question. I am puzzled by them. I have the lyric sheet that comes with the album, and Chvostek sings her words clearly in any case. But I’m not really sure what these songs are about. I felt like there were key words or phrases missing. This may be a problem that will be solved by repeated listenings, and there is enough good stuff here that I am willing to try that. But, for now, I will say that Annabelle Chvostek has shown me enough that I will keep an ear out for her; I believe that she has the talent to produce a truly great album. I’m just not sure yet whether this is it.