Lori Yates The Book Of Minerva

Two decades ago, Toronto country rock heroine Lori Yates found local success with Rang Tango, then briefly flirted with fame via a Nashville record deal. Her 1994 album Breaking Point showcased her stylistic versatility and deserved a better commercial fate. Since relocating to Hamilton with her family a few years back, Yates has been conspicuous by her absence, but this new disc is a cause for celebration. Her vibrant, passionate voice is in top shape and The Book Of Minerva demonstrates serious growth as a songwriter. A sombre, introspective mood pervades the album, enhanced by sparse and generally drum-free instrumentation. The eloquent guitar work of co-producer David Baxter is occasionally complemented by mandolin, banjo and upright bass (from Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan and Victor Bateman), while a stellar cast of harmony vocalists is featured. Justin Rutledge appears on compelling opening track "Simcoe” and "Nobody Loves Me,” while "You And Me Maria,” another highlight, is a duet in which Tom Wilson’s trademark gruff vocals nicely contrast with Lori’s sweeter tones. The massed Corktown Choir gives a stirring country gospel feel to "Far Away,” while the very funny "I’m Breaking Out Of Mommy Jail” already sounds like a honky-tonk classic. Those of us who have witnessed Lori’s firecracker live performances would have enjoyed a few more up-tempo cuts but there’s no denying the power of this coherent and compelling album. (Independent)