We stand currently on the precipice of September, which unfortunately means that summer is wrapping up. It also happens to mean that Ottawa CityFolk is only a couple of weeks away. As a result, I am in the process of delving into the variety of artists that will be on the bill, specifically the ones that I am mildly or completely unfamiliar with. These past few days have led me to Canadian folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Basia Bulat. My introduction to this lovely singer-songwriter came in the form of an exquisite concert with the NAC orchestra, but since then I have yet to listen to her studio work. In February of this year she released her fourth LP, Good Advice, so I’m going to talk about that one for a bit.
The thing that is immediately striking about Good Advice is that for an album from a folk artist, the album doesn’t sound much like folk. Indeed, Good Advice is a departure from Basia Bulat’s previous albums. She has become known for her acoustic sound, but she certainly hasn’t shied away from power and drama in her music. On Good Advice, she has taken the same type of melodic songwriting, but giving it a more electric sound. There’s a heavier emphasis on keyboards, and a greater depth of layering. Overall, the record leans towards pop, with some rock and some folk touches thrown in.
The focus of Good Advice remains Basia Bulat’s warm, evocative voice. The instrumental backing serves as a vehicle for flowing, subtle melodies that can only be done justice with exceptional vocal control. If you are fond of Basia’s voice, there is no doubt that you will enjoy this record. I will say that while I always appreciate when an artist decides to bring a new sound to a new album, I do miss the diverse instrumentation and delicate folk tones of her previous albums. Those older albums aren’t going anywhere, and Good Advice brings a welcome change of tone that adds to her repertoire rather than delivering more of the same.
My only time seeing Basia Bulat live was certainly a unique performance, so I can’t really comment on her regular shows, but she is without a doubt a talented and passionate performer. The emotion of her albums is communicated to an even greater degree in person. I, for one, will certainly be seeing her again during CityFolk. If you’ll be there, go see her. If you won’t, I highly recommend listening to a few Basia Bulat tunes. You won’t find another songwriter quite like her.