Cara Luft – Darlingford
2012, Fontana North/Blue Case Tunes
began performing at the age of four, singing and accompanying herself on
dulcimer. By the age of eleven the
Calgary native teaching herself guitar, learning alternate tunings and various
picking techniques. Luft soon added
banjo to her repertoire, giving her a solid arsenal of instruments to back up
her strong and distinctive alto voice. A founding member of The Wailin’
Jennies, Luft has also cut an impressive swath as a solo artist. Luft came to our attention here at Wildy’s
World with her 2007 album, The Light
Fantastic, a 4 ½ star gem that still ranks as a personal favorite. Luft returned in 2012 with her third solo
album, a splendiferous mix of folk, Celtic, country and even shades of pop
music that is ever so much more than anything she’s done before.
It might seem
a cliché phrase, but Cara Luft weaves magic through every nook and cranny of Darlingford. In the process she turns a bit of personal
tragedy into songwriting gold, exploring themes of love, loss, faith, recovery
and choosing a new direction with lyrical aplomb and a near-perfect understanding
of musical setting, mood and composition.
Luft’s ability to tell a story through song has never been more in focus than
it is on Darlingford, and it wouldn’t
be hard to imagine Luft collecting her second Juno Award based on this
effort. Darlingford is easily one of the finest collections to cross this
desk in 2012, and can be nothing less than a Wildy’s World Certified Desert
Darlingford begins with a look at salvation in the form of "Only Love Can
Save Me", a splendid mix of country and folk sounds that wrap around
Luft's singular voice like a blanket. The song is uplifting and joyful, yet
full of a stylistic and compositional complexity that is musically satisfying.
"Bye Bye Love" is an emotionally and musically mature post-mortem on
a relationship lost. Absent the vitriol common in pop/country kiss off songs,
Luft makes a much more damning case for moving on by speaking straight from the
heart. This is a beautiful examination of love's detritus, complete with
gorgeous vocal harmonies that appear from nowhere to accent some of her more
poignant discoveries. Luft's cover of Mike Scott's is powerful to say the least. The melancholy hope
of the song grows into a powerful determination that will have you on the edge
of your seat. Delving back into the healing process, Luft delivers the powerful
slow epiphany of "House On Fire". This testament to the permanence of
loss and the healing power of friendship is unforgettable, feeling both
decidedly intimate and universal at the same time.
"The Ploughboy And The Cockney" is an interesting diversion that is
more than it first appears. The musical performance here is top notch, of
course, but Luft proves her talent as a story teller with a light yet knowing
vocal touch. Listeners can decide whether there is more to the story in light
of the full cycle of songs presented here. "Idaho" is an exploration of new
beginnings, new faith and new perspectives. The joyous feel of the song has an
almost Paul Simon sound but with definite country flair. Luft is able to rock
out a bit here in the midst of a recovery she never foresaw.
Genocide and social responsibility whirl around the story of a man whose
heroics are sometimes deemed a failure. "Dallaire" explores the
perspective of Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, who oversaw international forces in
Rwanda in 1993 and 1994, at the height of the genocide campaign of Hutu
extremists. This is a touching and poignant look at how we struggle to do the
right thing, often failing even as we succeed. Luft returns to her personal
milieu with "Off My Mind". Here we hear some of the anger one might
expect post breakup, but the quiet reserve of class that Luft clarifies it all
with is refreshing. It doesn't dull the lyrical daggers she throws, but it does
make them harder to deflect.
"Portland Town" explores the ravages of war from the perspective of a
mother who sees her three sons go off to battle, never to return. The dark
Celtic style arrangement gives the song a quiet urgency that matches perfectly
to the subject matter, and Luft's voice is fully in the moment with an urgent
grace. Luft moves on to reverse prepositions and propositions with her emotive
and stunning take on "He Moved Through The Fair". Her voice conveys a
story of love with an elemental power that is breathtaking.
Luft takes a somewhat lighter tone on "My Darling One", an
incantation to a beloved child or perhaps even to a prospective love. The
bouncy feel of this tune marks an emotional turning point, as the scars of loss
begin to fall away. That inertia grows on "It's Gonna Be Alright", as
faith turns to confidence and ambition to make tomorrow a better day.
Darlingford closes out with "Charged!” - a bonus track born of a real life
border bust. The song is a fun and entertaining reminder of how quickly things
can go awry in the hands of Federal power, and how we rely on the humanity of
one another to straighten out the simple-minded grind of political machines.
Rating: 5 Stars
(Out of 5)