Kathryn Calder is one of those artists who belies her age. She began
her professional music career as a teenager, and by the time that most
people are just stepping into their first independent record store, she
had recorded 2 EPS and 4 CDs with the Victoria based Immaculate
Machine, and toured the world and recorded three albums as the newest
member of The New Pornographers.
She has experienced the whole spectrum of what a musician’s life can
be, from playing in the corner of the local bar for a small group of
friends, to playing in front of 40,000 screaming fans at prestigious
festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury. She has appeared on
national television numerous times, but still takes the time to
personally reply to fans on her Facebook page. She’s also moonlighted
on other artist’s albums from The Pink Mountaintops to Neko Case’s
Grammy nominated ‘Middle Cyclone.’ It seems as if she’s done it all.
Yet the one frontier she has never embarked on - until now - is having
the spotlight solely on her.
Recorded at her mother’s house in Victoria BC, ‘Are you my Mother?’ is
one of 2010’s most innovative releases. It is a deeply personal record
that was largely born through two years of Kathryn caring for her
terminally ill mother. Yet the songs on “Are you my mother?’ are
universal in their tone because the record relates to so many facets of
all our lives. This is NOT a eulogy. Rather, it is a statement that
life is a mixed bag, and that without losing things you would never
know to cherish them. Yes there are songs of loss on ‘Are you my
mother?’, yet there are also songs of love, friendship, and whimsy. It
is a beguiling album, that - because of the wisdom and experience
communicated by her voice - gives the illusion of being written by
someone in the twilight of their years, while at the same time it
expresses the excitement and wonder of a young woman who is just
finding her own voice.
While the songs are sophisticated in their tone and expression, the
process of recording them was surprisingly simple. With little in the
way of technology, Calder and her producer, Colin Stewart relied on
intuition and improvisation to create a record that sounds full and
lush but also reflects the charms and intimacy of the surroundings in
which it was recorded.
By using found items such as Kleenex boxes and filing cabinets as
percussion, an old high school trumpet, and an out of tune piano
plucked backwards to add texture, Calder and Stewart were able to
create a unique soundscape for her vocals and expressive piano playing.
Although Kathryn played most of the instruments, she did have the
benefit of friends and band mates to fill in any gaps she might have
missed. Local musicians and other notable friends like Neko Case, Kurt
Dahle, and Todd Fancey of The New Pornographers, and members of
Ladyhawk all lent their talents to the project.
‘Are You My Mother,’ is one of the most exciting and honest debut
records of 2010. You will hear a moment in time and all of the feelings
that were contained in it.
Kathryn Calder doesn’t like to let the grass grow under her feet for
too long. 2010 is shaping up to be a busy year as she’s already working
on a follow up to “Are you my Mother?” before going out on the road for
six months with The New Pornographers.