The second-last concert of the Arden Theatre season is a timely double bill with The Small Glories and John Wort Hannam.
Running Thursday, April 20, it comes after both acts are experiencing a liberation of sorts.
The Americana-folk duo Small Glories is a fortunate accident that threw together a partnership crafted in destiny.
Cara Luft, formerly of the Juno Award winning Wailin’ Jennys and rocker JD Edwards, were spontaneously paired at an anniversary show at Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre in 2012.
Physically they couldn’t be more different. Luft is a wholesome, environmentally friendly “earth mother.” On the other, the scruffy bearded Edwards looks “like a cross between a biker and a long-haul trucker.”
Right out of the gate they clicked. Luft packed a mean banjo. Edwards was a hot guitarist. The two veteran singer-songwriters enjoyed an equally well-matched guitar prowess. But it was their mesmerizing voices, tight harmonies and all-around authenticity that sparked a buzz.
Different projects prevented them from teaming up. It wasn’t until several years later that the duo released their debut album, Wondrous Traveler, in 2016.
Through a competition at Bottega Farm Studio in Kelowna, Luft was awarded 10 days free studio time and she invited Edwards to join her.
“At that time we both needed a shift. This landed in our lap and it rejuvenated us,” said Luft.
From the get-go, Wondrous Traveler received enthusiastic critical praise. The title is a blend of two songs on the 10-track. Wondrous Love and The Traveler are two sacred harp songs sung a cappella.
As Luft explains, sacred harp music developed in the United States as a tune book printed in shape notes.
“It’s the oldest written form of music in North America. People that weren’t literate could read it. But it was ridiculed by the European entertainment community and eventually it moved further south into rural communities.”
It’s The Small Glories folksy-Americana that speaks with uncanny authenticity whether it’s the banjo-pickin’ Had I Paid or the tear-jerking Home or the fun song Way Over Yonder.
“This was a natural thing that happened. As we brought in new material, it developed into something dynamic and powerful.”
Folk-roots recording artist John Wort Hannam was also searching for a fresh approach. The Lethbridge singer-songwriter is renowned for his storytelling songs about Alberta.
He’s more prone to writing love songs and ballads than political pieces. But Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015 inspired his newest song Only Love Can Save Us Now.
“I started to write the song several years ago. I was impacted by what was happening. I had a three-year-old son at the time. I started it but I didn’t know how to finish it.”
After releasing six CDs, the latest being Love Lives On, Wort Hannam felt spent and wondered if he had written his last album.
But a two-week March residency in Banff reinvigorated his approach to music.
“I used to get a nugget and put it in a song. On the fifth day I was there, a switch flipped and I realized a song needs to be explained on a deep level. I’ve been giving people a salad and all I needed to do is give them a sweet onion and peel it layer by layer.”
There was a fundamental U-turn in his approach to writing and in the last month he’s written eight new songs – some which will debut at the Arden.
The Small Glories and John Wort Hannam
Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.
5 St. Anne Street
Call 780-459-1542 or at ticketmaster.ca