“At the risk of of­fend­ing oth­ers, a lot of mod­ern gui­tar-based mu­sic sounds de­riv­a­tive.”

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - PG. 20

WHEN ASKED TO NAME THEIR FAVOURITE FOLK ROCKER, many Cana­dian mu­sic buffs would no doubt choose Ba­hamas. Af­ter all, the Toronto-based singer-song­writer, born Afie Jur­va­nen, won a Juno Award for his gen­tly strummed 2014 LP Ba­hamas is Afie, but de­spite those suc­cesses, Jur­va­nen had no de­sire to fur­ther mine that ter­rain when it came time to record a fol­lowup.

“At the risk of of­fend­ing oth­ers, a lot of mod­ern gui­tar-based mu­sic sounds de­riv­a­tive,” Jur­va­nen says of his mind­set while ap­proach­ing his new al­bum, Earth­tones. “I wanted to make a mod­ern record and not a folk record, or some­thing look­ing to­ward the past. I re­ally ad­mire hip-hop and R&B artists. When I lis­ten to D’An­gelo, he sounds so rel­e­vant to me, and when I started writ­ing, I had artists like that in mind.”

Ba­hamas went from hav­ing them in mind to hav­ing them in the stu­dio. Or more specif­i­cally, he re­cruited James Gad­son and Pino Pal­ladino — mem­bers of D’An­gelo’s band, the Van­guard, who backed him on 2014’s clas­sic, Black Mes­siah — for a ses­sion that helped rad­i­cally change his sound. Long­time fans shouldn’t worry, be­cause Jur­va­nen re­tains his trade­mark husky, yet sooth­ing vo­cal de­liv­ery. But the mu­sic oth­er­wise has a funky, soul­ful qual­ity that’s closer to Mo­town than Ba­hamas Is Afie.

Bold as that shift may be, and as highly es­teemed as Gad­son and Pal­ladino are, get­ting them on board was sur­pris­ingly easy. The Van­guard sim­ply sprang to mind when Jur­va­nen was seek­ing in­spi­ra­tion, so he asked his man­ager on a whim to see if any­one from that band was avail­able. And while the pair’s re­sumes are stacked, they are, in the end, ses­sion mu­si­cians for hire, Jur­va­nen ex­plains. And he says play­ing with them was ev­ery bit the dream come true he’d hoped for, re­call­ing: “In many cases, I didn’t di­rect them to ‘play this or that.’ I’d just start play­ing and their in­stincts would fall in the right place.”

Jur­va­nen re­turned from those brief but fruit­ful ses­sions re­ju­ve­nated, his post- Ba­hamas Is Afie folk fa­tigue fi­nally thwarted. His tour­ing band re­turned dur­ing another round of record- ing sim­i­larly in­spired. Back­ing singer Felic­ity Williams, for in­stance, dab­bled in doo-wop on “Open­ing Act (The Shooby Dooby Song).” And gui­tarist Chris­tine Bougie soloed in pin­point jabs on “No Ex­pec­ta­tions,” align­ing smoothly with the tune’s soul­ful back­ing horn sec­tion. In fact, her play­ing was a per­fect al­ter­na­tive to the “de­riv­a­tive gui­tar mu­sic” that Jur­va­nen was so weary of.

“The gui­tar shouldn’t be pi­geon­holed to clas­sic rock. It’s an in­stru­ment that can do any­thing— it can make soft sounds and hard sounds and con­jure up a vast range of emo­tions, the same way a vi­o­lin or pi­ano can,” Jur­va­nen says. “When I say I wanted to make a mod­ern record, I mean I wanted to pull gui­tar mu­sic in that di­rec­tion, be­cause pop­u­lar mu­sic is mostly hip-hop and R&B and elec­tronic now. Fig­ur­ing out a way to make gui­tar mu­sic play well in that neigh­bour­hood is a chal­lenge that’s re­ally fun.”

“At the risk of of­fend­ing oth­ers, a lot of mod­ern gui­tar-based mu­sic sounds de­riv­a­tive.”

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