Dana Sipos Trick of the Light
Published May 30, 2018This Toronto-based singer-songwriter's previous album, 2015's Roll Up the Night Sky, was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award in the category "Pushing The Boundaries." That is a fitting indicator of her creative ambition, one impressively realized on this excellent new record.
She is not well-served by pretentious press notes describing it as "a narrative fueled by the collective experience of existing as a woman battling misogyny as it relates to bodies and legacies," but don't let that deter you. The Appalachian feel, musically and lyrically, is deliberate, and inspired by Sipos's excursions into the area. The result is song titles like "Blue Ridge" and "Shenandoah" and references to hollers and Virginia creepers.
Sipos's poetic material is delivered in a hauntingly pure voice that captivates you instantly (Sandy Denny and Gillian Welch spring to mind). A real tour de force here is "When the Body Breaks," featuring a guest appearance by the divine Mary Margaret O'Hara, and flugelhorn and trumpet by Nicole Ampersaud. Another gem is "Lily In the Window," featuring such evocative lyrics as "some might say it's hurricane season, I say it's treachery and treason, too much moonshine, not enough god-fearing."
One tune, "Tides," was inspired by the Bay of Fundy, and it'd be nice to see Sipos draw more on Canadian settings than well-worn American turf in future material. Moody ballads are the dominant form, one broken up by the breezy, if rather lightweight, "Do You Good." A-list guests on the record include Fats Kaplin, Jesse Zubot, Brodie West, Doug Tielli, Abigail Lapell and Ryan Driver, while the work of her core band is consistently strong. The imaginative yet subtle production is courtesy of Sandro Perri. Trick of the Light is indeed a luminous and compelling work. (Roaring Girl Records / Fontana North)