Ellen Froese is an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter who’s making a definite mark on the Canadian music scene. She brought her repertoire of beautiful songs and her down-to-earth humour to a packed house at the Watson and District Museum on Sunday for a matinee performance.
Froese is wrapping up a western tour that’s taken her through Saskatchewan, highlighting her own shows and performing with Saskatchewan rock staples the Sheepdogs. She’s recently adopted Toronto as her new home, but there’s no mistaking the grounded prairie roots and her love of her farm upbringing.
Her songs from her exquisite new album, For Each Flower Growing, show the growth in both her lyrical and musical sensibilities. Froese explores new territories like open tuned guitar melodies, always a Joni Mitchell staple. With a clear and pitch perfect vocal style, Froese had the audience captivated with her songs and laughing with her stories and always insightful off-the-cuff remarks.
Froese opened her show with the haunting Like You’re Looking at Me, backed by superb harmonies from bass player Chris Mason and drummer Luke Goetz, followed by the bluesy three-quarter time Sad to Be Sad, custom made for a melancholy waltz. Also from the new album, Goetz acoustically reproduced a synth drum track on Everybody Knows. Darnell Stewart’s rock-solid and versatile work on his hollow body Telecaster Guitar ran the gamut from country-rock twang to ethereal, almost orchestral tones.
Throughout the two-hour show, the audience heard echoes of familiar songwriters and influences like Joni, Shawn Colvin, Sarah Harmer, or Nanci Griffith. Undeniably though, Ellen has always had her own sound; now it’s evolved to a distinct and recognizable voice underscored by a sophisticated song crafting style.
Froese talked about her passion for “old” music as she launched into an obscure Gordon Lightfoot gem Spin, Spin; and Saskatchewan singer Ivan McNab (with roots from George Gordon First Nation) and his take on Marty Robbins’ My Love is the Prairie. Her covers included the traditional American folk ballad Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies, a delicate lament popularized in the 60s by Peter, Paul and Mary.
The simple but image-laden Long Division showcased her fingerpicking skills. An encore delighted the audience with requests of her beloved Eaton’s Spring and Summer 1975 and I Wish I Had a Footlong Cigarette.
Froese is a natural storyteller who had the audience in stitches with her natural wit and charm. Only in Saskatchewan would an artist be able to catch up mid-show with a family member of one of her besties.
Ellen Froese is crafting songs with a broad sonic appeal, lyrical precision and keen observation and depth. If Froese returns to her home province for the summer festival circuit, take the time to catch this amazing artist.
Watch for more announcements on upcoming concerts in the town of Watson.