Published Oct 17, 2018This Halifax singer-songwriter and producer has long been undervalued in Canada, so it's pleasing to note that prestigious U.S. label Compass Records has signed her for outside Canada (they came on board for her previous album, Down Below, The Status Quo).
On this, her fifth album, Costelo delivers a work of compelling artistry. It is difficult to decide what impresses most on Sweet Marie, the subtle vocal stylings, the well-crafted songs or her deftly adventurous production and arrangement touches. The ten songs on the album were recorded in just ten days in a timber-frame home on the Nova Scotian coast, with a crack crew comprised of Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo) on drums, Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman) on bass, Leith Fleming-Smith (Matt Mays) on organ and Costelo's long-time guitarist and partner, Clive MacNutt.
Costelo's sound seamlessly mixes retro soul, jazz and roots elements, and her phrasing is impeccable throughout. In this age of vocal gymnastics, her restrained approach is refreshing, though it'd perhaps have been nice to hear her let it rip on a song or two. She is an imaginative lyricist, portraying inner emotions via lines like "I was caught in the wind like a breath in a bubble that'd burst if I spoke," from album highlight "Shadow." On the tender closing ballad, a cover of Randy Newman's "I'll Be Home," Costelo pledges "I'll be here to comfort you," and this lovely record does just that. (Venue Records)