When Annabelle Chvostek joined the Wailin' Jennys in 2004, the rest of the world found out what a grassroots network of Canadian roots fans had known for several years: that Chvostek is a formidable songwriter, a versatile multi-instrumentalist, and a fearless and innovative artist whose beguiling left-of-centre compositions straddle the divide between mainstream roots and acoustic indie pop.
Chvostek's songs were repeatedly singled out by critics as highlights of the Jennys' Juno-nominated CD, Firecracker. "Devil's Paintbrush Road" is still the most downloaded song from the album on iTunes, and it was the #1 song at US folk radio in 2006. It remained at #3 in 2007.
Now, after two and a half years of recording and touring with the Jennys', highlights of which included several appearances on A Prairie Home Companion, performing at New York's legendary Town Hall and singing on the 2005 Juno Awards telecast, Chvostek is releasing her much-anticipated solo album, Resilience.
Recorded in New York and Montreal with Grammy-nominated Canadian record producer Roma Baran and her producing partner Vivian Stoll, Resilience is a sublime, spare, and profoundly reflective album that Chvostek describes as "a big complicated hug."
The theme, as the title suggests, is resilience, with relationships often serving as a metaphor or jumping off point for looking at how human kind survives its own foibles and the resulting "craziness" of the world. "I Left My Brain," for example, is a crunchy alt.pop number about "heartache in a time of oil wars." "The Sioux" is a trad-influenced fiddle-driven piece about a country train ride to Northern Ontario and confronting the legacy of colonial occupation. The title track wonders at the human capacity to recover from heartbreak, while "Driving Away" sees Annabelle collaborating with Bruce Cockburn on a song about a fictional relationship that illustrates the aforementioned theme.
The sound of the album could best be described as "contemporary urban roots," a style in which acoustic instruments are front and centre, but in which strategically placed programmed beats and electro-acoustic elements wrap themselves gently and tastefully around the strings, at times building the sound to a subtle crescendo such as on the title track. In addition to Cockburn, guests include renowned alt.country artist Mary Gauthier on backing vocals, Ani DiFranco alumnus Julie Wolf on keyboard and accordion and multiple Juno nominee Michael Jerome Browne on assorted strings.
Taken together, the innovative production values and insightful lyrics make Resilience a warm and enveloping album about the possibilities for change and redemption.
About Annabelle Chvostek:
Born and raised in a musical family in Toronto, Chvostek made her professional debut with the Canadian Opera Company at the age of 7, and appeared in La Boheme at 8. She has been performing ever since. In the mid 90s, Chvostek moved to Montreal to, as she puts it, "live like a bohemian." There, she earned a degree in interdisciplinary fine arts at Concordia, composed for dance and film, played in bands that ranged from old-time to electronica, and served as a percussionist for dance classes. She also traveled in India and Japan and did work as a journalist, camera girl and multimedia tech â€“ all the while writing songs and performing them on the Montreal-Ontario-New York circuit.
She released her solo debut 1am to 5am in 1997 and followed it up with Full Stop in 2000 and Water in 2003. In 2004, she released the EP, Burned My Ass, which contained the first version of the soon-to-be Jennys' favourite "Devil's Paintbrush Road." It topped the campus radio folk charts. By the time she joined the Jennys, Chvostek was touring North America regularly, frequently sharing bills with acts like Po'Girl, Rae Spoon and Barlywick.
In addition to pursuing her solo music career, Annabelle continues to work in a variety of other disciplines. Immediately prior to joining the Jennys, she toured to Brussells, Rotterdam, Hamberg, Berlin and Vienna with her new media performance piece "The Automated Prayer Machine," a collaboration with Anna Friz. Most recently, she composed music for the Drastic Action Dance company piece Line of Descent, which debuted in New York on March 13th.