Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I first encountered Karla Adolphe, a singer-songwriter from High River, Alberta, when she played for a chapel service at Providence University College in Otterburne, Manitoba, a few years ago. I was immediately taken by this compelling and emotive performer. In concert, with only her voice and her guitar, she seemed to express a kind of victory despite loss, or an acceptance despite loneliness: her Christian faith was clearly present in that it allowed her to overcome the various difficulties that she experienced.
This was particularly evident during her last visit to Providence a couple of years ago, during which she expressed the difficulties she faced in the flooding of her house, and her community, in the floods of June 2013. She expressed how difficult the rebuilding process was for her, and as she presented her stories, I became part of her story: my own troubles (certainly not as difficult as her--and her family'--experiences) came to mind and I realized that our journeys in life, though unique to each of us, were more similar than different. And if she could overcome despite, then, perhaps, so could I.
When I found out that Karla Adolphe was putting out a live EP, I was excited. The five-song EP was recorded live at The Space, "a sound stage, post-production house and a recording studio" located in Red Deer, Alberta. The tracks feature Adolphe and her guitar, as well as a sparse band and complementary background vocals. Other than that, the production is light, and so the performance remains intimate and very easy to listen to.
The first track, "Trouble Won't Go," is a rousing number, evocative of a spiritual, a song that seems to bring to the forefront life's difficulties: "Ain't no refuge but you, my God." With all of the talk of levees breaking and earth eroding away, it is easy to make a connection (at least thematically) with Adolphe's own experiences in the 2013 floods. But her decision is to hold still in the arms of God. Her proclamation is loud and definitive. She will do this despite.
"Magnolia," a preview of the title track on her upcoming full-length release, begins with a couple of guitars and fingersnaps for percussion, and then Adolphe's blues-infused delivery. This song is a bit of a "soft" scorcher, that is until the chorus begins with the declaration of "I will rise up!" Again, the theme of victory in the face of looming defeat is strong. To say that the song is an encouragement is too strong: the song is a call of desperation, and a call to join together with her to yell at defeat and to tell it to go away.
Her rendition of "Ice Road," originally released on Honeycomb Tombs from 2012, is imbued with a positive energy not present on the studio recording. Though equally beautiful, the original is sad and sparse, evoking the loneliness of an ice road journey itself. This version seems to anticipate the arrival to a destination. Adolphe has now "gotten through," her desire throughout the song.
"No Grounds For Love" is soft and gentle, and reminds this listener of Feist's work, though with Adolphe's vocal power. It is a beautiful song which really demonstrates how talented a performer Karla Adolphe really is. She is able to disarm the listener: through her vulnerability, she makes the listener vulnerable. We are affected by her emotions. In the sonic spaces of the song, beneath and through the voice we hear, we breath, realizing that we are all on a similar journey through life.
Once I got to the last song, "Child of the King," I was saddened. It wasn't because of the triumphant sorts of declarations that Adolphe proclaims here; she continues to express this sort of victory despite. Rather, I know that the EP is over. Karla, we need a full-length, live, one-take, one-guitar, one-voice album. We need more of that spoken and sung victory despite so that we can continue to realize that we are not alone.
Until then, I suppose this will do.
You can pre-order/purchase both Digital Downloads and Physical CDs at http://www.karlaadolphe.bandcamp.com.
Look forward to Magnolia, a full-length album from Karla Adolphe, coming in March 2016. For more information on wonderful Karla Adolphe, see her website at http://www.karlaadolphe.com.