Myriam Gendron – Not So Deep as a Well

well I’ve said before that given the absolute ocean of solo acoustic performers, I can find it hard to say what makes one particular performer stand out to me above another.

At the moment the best answer to that question seems to be ‘well, if they release with Mama Bird Recording Co…’ After ending with first Barna Howard and then Vikesh Kapoor in my top albums of the year list in the last couple of years, I would be amazed if this didn’t make it a hat-trick.

Myriam Gendron is a Montréal-based singer-songwriter, and this album is of songs made from the poetry of Dorothy Parker. I’ll admit to knowing pretty much nothing about either, unfortunately, although apparently Gendron has a bit of a track record when it comes to taking poetry and turning it into song.

Musically this may be, I suppose, unadventurous. I can see people who don’t like it just thinking ‘ah here we go again, vocal, guitar, a bit of self-harmonising – yawwwn’ and I suppose that’s inevitable when there’s so much of this stuff out there, but I really think this is special.

I don’t know what it is, particularly. I suppose having someone famous for their verbal skills in charge of the words makes a big difference, but the delivery is absolutely stunning as well. This is what I mean when I say that Angel Olsen should tone it down a bit and have confidence in her voice being great whether or not she accentuates her idiosyncrasies. Gendron is pretty much the embodiment of keeping your delivery straight, disciplined and modest, with confidence that if you have a voice as inherently warm and expressive as this then it will shine through just fine.

I say expressive, but she doesn’t even seem to try too hard to inflect her vocal or fill it with emotion, there is just something beautiful about the tone of her voice, and the calm, lovely delivery. It could have been recorded fifty years ago, this, and it would stand up against some of the most lauded performances from that era – and that was long enough ago that we really only remember the very best.

Given a lot of similarities of pace and arrangement there is a bit of a sense that this album sort of blends into one a little. I’d generally use that as a criticism, but in this case I don’t think so. The instrumental title track prepares you for the album to wind down, The False Friends sounds almost like Kimya Dawson, with just a little of what sounds like fairly improvised percussion lending the tune a bit of lightness and purpose, before Ballade of a Great Weariness descends into melancholy and a vocal which rises and falls so subtly that it has an almost drone-like quality.

So there is variation here, although it is subtle and may take a while to sink in. Fortunately the whole sound of this record is so lovely that repeated listens are still a pleasure whether or not the individual tracks have come into focus yet, and playing it over and over is a pleasure. Instead of being bored by the quantity of acoustic music, I am amazed and impressed that someone can make something so lovely and with so much character with so few tools to work with. Gorgeous.

Pre-order your vinyl here – it’s currently being re-pressed.

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