Sarah Jane Scouten has certainly paid her musical dues, with a couple of albums and an EP under her belt, and plenty of time on the road. But there's something about When the Bloom Falls From the Rose that feels like more than the expected culmination of experience and hard work. It's like a giddy debut album and a self-assured career pinnacle rolled into one.
Scouten lucked into a voice that's bright and pretty, but brimming with character and bite. Backed by a crack team of mostly Toronto-based musicians, like James McEleney (bass), Nichol Robertson (guitar, banjo), Chris Stringer (guitar), Sly Juhas (drums, percussion), Aaron Goldstein (pedal steel), Ben Plotnick (fiddle), John David Williams (clarinet) and Anna Scouten (vocals), she sings the heck out of every track.
But this record is more than just beautiful and well performed — it's downright interesting. Not only do Scouten's songwriting propensities take her in a bunch of different directions; thanks to some of Andre Wahl's production choices, it's also a sonically diverse album, alternating between lush and spare. The title track falls squarely into big-sounding country-pop territory (albeit with enough lyrical surprises to clue you into the non-mainstreamness of it all), while "Bang Bang" is a rowdy rockabilly one-two punch. Other songs, like "Britannia Mine" and "Where the Ghost River Flows," pair familiar country music storytelling with ethereal soundscapes.
As for the love songs on the album — and there are a good handful of them — they manage to dance around the usual clichés and conjure real, live, three-dimensional lovers. Through it all, Scouten's confident vocal strut-and-swagger is 100% convincing. (Light Organ)