Enny Owl Cast Quiet Spells at Sled Island

Pin-Bar, June 22

Photo: Em Medland-Marchen

BY Em Medland-MarchenPublished Jun 25, 2024

Taking the stage at Pin-Bar in the late afternoon on Saturday, LA-based folk artist Enny Owl's sleeper set was a highlight of this year's Sled Island.

Performing to an intimate audience of folk fans looking to decompress after some of the festival's heavier offerings, Enny Owl opened up with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of "Jarrell" from her 2023 album Homes in Humans. Her voice unaccompanied, she performed the song in a sean-nós style. It was a nod to Irish and Celtic folk traditions that she maintained throughout the set, her soprano taking on a bittersweet and powerful quality that evoked tradition and was supported by impressive thematic songwriting. That connection was solidified by the faithful cover of the Cranberries' "Zombie," which she performed to conclude the performance, emphasizing the unexpected but powerful line of influence Enny Owl draws from a robust history of Irish musicianship.

After the conclusion of her final pitch-perfect note of "Jarrell," Enny Owl stepped away shyly from the mic. Her eyes to the floor, she quietly introduced herself. Leaving little room for banter, she chose instead to focus on the integrity of the music — the hallmark of a great folk artist.

Amongst glimmering pinball machines and bathed in the soft light of a warm summer's day, Enny Owl was a vision transplanted straight from the forests and lands beyond our humble city. Though she travelled to Calgary from LA, it seemed that she had graced our presence from somewhere even further away. Her music was a true standout, but something must also be said about her outfit of choice — an elegant pink floral dress, complete with white lace trimmings and a cinched ribbon waist, was complemented by amethyst braids that reached nearly to the floor. Yellow flowers dotted her crown, and colourful crystals glimmered about her forehead, shimmering in the light of the stage.

Performing barefoot, Enny Owl was a vision of Titania, the fairy queen, emerging from the stalks of a fragrant lavender bushel. Her performance at Pin-Bar was just one stop before she darted off to the woods again, pirouetting, singing and playing string instruments in equal measure for her preferred audience of choice: frogs, birds, humming insects and woodland sprites. Like a catch of light on a leaf that shimmers before it is gone, Enny Owl's brief but striking presence was truly something to behold.

Clapping her hands as percussion, Enny Owl launched into "Sandbox," the lead single from her 2019 album Songs of a Wallflower. The song's riveting lyricism hovered in the air, weaving tapestries of love lost and the fleeting seasons. Many of Enny Owl's songs bear names as titles — later she explained that many of them she wrote for friends during difficult times, encouraging them to feel deserving of love, find their own path and let the power of nature heal them. Her songs "Joyce" and "Shannon" from Homes in Humans are deeply personal portraits of friendships that speak to Enny Owl's ability to connect and inspire through music.

As I looked around the room, I saw new mothers dancing and couples embracing, their smiles warm and wide as they took in the gentle sounds. Absent were the musicians who performed ahead of Enny, in addition to the city's alt-country mainstays who surely would have delighted in her dress and music, reminiscent of the likes of Sierra Ferrell and Amy Nelson. This was the challenge of Sled Island — with a kaleidoscopic schedule of performing artists, visiting musicians must compete for attention with artists and their fans from a wide variety of diverse genres. In the noise, at times more nuanced talent like Enny Owl go unrecognized. Whether those openers were too busy shining their boots and tending to the cows to bother sticking around, Enny Owl was more than happy to perform to the mice who made their homes in the nooks and crannies.

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