The Small Glories make their US debut with ASSINIBOINE & THE RED, an album that celebrates the Canadian Prairies. The album will be released worldwide on June 28 on Red House Records. The album title references the junction of two rivers, the Assiniboine (pronounced ‘uh-sin-uh-boin’) and the Red, in the duo’s hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and celebrates the happenstance meeting of members Cara Luft, an original member of the Wailin’ Jennys, and multi-instrumentalist JD Edwards. The duo is premiering the album’s first single, “Oh My Love,” today with PASTE Magazine.
“It’s our happiest sounding broken-hearted love song!” Luft says of the single. “It’s a theme we are all familiar with, when we give our heart over to another and the feeling is either not reciprocal, or the timing is off, or we misread the signs.”
Luft and Edwards’ onstage chemistry and humor complements their energetic live performances and buoyant, Americana-inflected folk songs; their exuberant harmonies bring to mind such duos as the Civil Wars and Shovels & Rope, but with a Northern spin. NPR wrote, “Luft is a Wailin’ Jennys alum whose work on the clawhammer banjo is to die for, while Edwards’ guitar and vocal harmonies deepen and enrich the duo’s sound.”
Recorded in Winnipeg, Manitoba during a bracingly cold Canadian spring, ASSINIBOINE & THE RED reuinted the duo with producer Neil Osborne, frontman and songwriter for the iconic Canadian rock band 54-40. “Although he’s not a ‘folk artist,’ he has the heart of a folk singer and firmly believes in the power of song and in serving the song,” says Luft of Osborne. “He also believed in the importance of keeping us rooted in our folk/roots tradition; he didn’t want us to stray too far outside the box.”
“We’re folk singers, we try to write stuff that people can relate to,” says Edwards, whose looming stage presence and penetrating eyes find him the yin to Luft’s petite, snort-laughing yang.
“I remember being very excited about this collection of songs and getting to record them at home in Winnipeg,” Edwards says. “I was so glad to hear that Gilles Fournier (bass) and Mark Mariash (percussion/rums) agreed to come back and record another album with us. Getting the band back together along with Neil Osborne at the helm had my mind thinking of how we were going to be taking these songs to places we had never dreamed of going.”
The album’s songs do play out like travelogue of sorts. ASSINIBOINE & THE RED is rich with a sense of place and geography and is bookended by two songs that pay tribute to locales. The opener, “Alberta,” is a love song to Luft’s home province and is “dedicated to anyone who is new to a place and surprises themselves by having their heart stolen by the land.” The raucous closing track, “Winnipeg,” is a spirited celebration of their hometown, “a city full of heart and guts and soul,” Luft says. “It’s a city of many languages and cultures where a big beautiful sun, the great equalizer, shines down on everyone all year long.”
Other stand-out tracks include “Long Long Moon,” written on the island province of Prince Edward Island, where the history and stories of a sea-faring community inspired this song of loss, love, and waiting. “Don’t Back Down” was written for all the dying small prairie towns, and their sister Maritime towns that are experiencing a mass exodus, and for those who have chosen to stay.
Luft describes an audience favorite, “Sing,” as a protest song for our time. “It’s a song to roust us out of our complacency and our indifference, a song to challenge our era of divisiveness and polarization to remind us what ‘it’ is all about, and what it’s not,” she says.
“Each of the songs on the album is a co-write, either between the two of us, ” Luft explains, “or between us and other writers, which we feel has helped created a very unique and powerful collection of songs.” Co-writers include some of Canada’s finest — Lynn Miles, James Keelaghan, Catherine MacLellan, Bruce Gurthro, Ashley Condon and Andrina Turenne — as well as American poet Glenn Bowie.
“Many of the songs were written around the theme of home — where we call home, where others call home — and the various stories and histories and landscape of these specific locations. We focused on Canadian places; we are Canadian after all!”
Already known in their native Canada as well as for their performances at international festivals including SXSW and AmericanaFest, the duo has captured the charm and chemistry of their live shows with ASSINIBOINE & THE RED’s collection of engaging, memorable songs.
2. Long Long Moon
3. Oh My Love
4. Johnson Slide
6. Don’t Back Down
8. Pieces of Me
9. You Can’t Be High
May 4 Central Ohio Folk Festival – Lewis Center, OHal
May 5 Southgate House Revival – Newport, KY
May 9 Sellersville Theatre (open for The Black Lillies) – Sellersville, PA
May 10 Roy’s Hall – Blairstown, NJ
May 11 Susquehanna Folk Music Society – Harrisburg, PA
May 12 Philadelphia Folksong Society Concerts – Philadelphia, PA
May 24 West End Cultural Centre – Winnipeg, MB
June 7 – 9 Kluane Bluegrass Festival – Haine’s Junction, YT
July 6 Long Island Museum – Stony Brook, NY
July 7 Joe’s Pub – NYC, NY
July 9 Middlebury Festival on the Green- Middlebury, VT
July 10 Music on the Green – Saranac Lake, NY
July 11 The Music Hall Loft – Portsmouth, NH
July 12 Riverbend Live: The Small Glories & Red Molly – Winston, OR
July 13 McCabes Guitar Shop – Santa Monica, CA
July 14 Hound Dog House Concerts – Santa Barbara, CA
July 19 Stewart Park Music Festival – Perth, ON
July 20 – 21 Home County Music & Art Festival – London, ON
July 26 – 28 Stan Rogers Folk Fest – Canso, NS
Aug 2 Indian River Festival – Kensington, PEI
Aug 3 Blue Skies Music Festival – Clarendon, ON
Aug 8 – 11 Edmonton Folk Festival – Edmonton, AB
Aug 16 – 17 The Folks Festival – Lyons, CO
Aug 24 Thrasher Opera House – Green Lake, WI
Aug 25 Porcupine Mountains Music Festival – Ontonagon, MI
Aug 30 Oak Harbor Music Festival Whidbey Island, WA