Abigail Lapell “Anniversary”

Outside Music, 2024

A marriage of traditional folk elements with a modern pop perceptive.

Abigail Lapell album art "Anniversary"Toronto’s Abigail Lapell’s sixth album ‘Anniversary’ was recorded in St Mark’s Anglican Church situated in the historic old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. It can be traced back to the 1790s. The church came with in-house piano, a harpsichord and a few antique organs. It was co-produced by Great Lake Swimmer, Tony Dekker whose band are no strangers to recording in old silos and churches for atmospheric effect. Additional recording was done at The Wow Recording Studio & Music Space in St Catherines, Ontario, pedal steel player, Joe Lapinski’s place.

The Greenbank Folk Society in Ontario recently got first-date to celebrate the release of ‘Anniversary’. The album is an evocative collection of love songs. It evokes both the past and the present, the province’s pioneering landscape and urban centres. The album’s bio lists some of the recurring dualities; the literal and the symbolic, of this earth and otherworldly. True love and foolish infatuation. Lapell’s inspiration came from a series of personal milestones, including turning 40, the anniversary of her father’s death, weddings and births within her extended family.

The title track introduces the muted distortion on Lapell’s guitar and her impressive vocal layers. Inspired by the idea of mashing up traditional anniversary gifts (cotton, leather and diamonds) with the periodic table of elements (iron, carbon, silver) the song symbolises togetherness, that shared song, or piece of music, that binds a couple together. Lapell then switches to the piano for ‘Footsteps’. A slightly out of synch orchestral arrangement, along with the ending, adds to the track’s mystery. It certainly conveys a strong emotional connection to someone dearly departed. The piano is used to good effect again on ‘3am’ accompanied by some heartfelt, weary trumpet played by Rebecca Hennessy. The album bio cleverly describes the track as: “an insomniac ballad evoking the solitude of lost love”.

More celebratory folk-pop numbers include ‘Count on Me’, a duet with Tony Dekker, ‘Someone Like You’, and a brassy love story, “as dysfunctional as it is irresistible”, ‘Wait Up‘. On ‘Rattlesnake’ Lapell plays a desert blues style, mixing in some superstitions with the lyrics such as, a coin placed in a bride’s shoe for luck or the tail of said-snake concealed within the body of a fiddle. ‘Blue Blaze’ is an enjoyable track that sounds as if it was recorded in an old swing-door saloon rather than a church, complete with tack piano and harmonica. Lapell is almost Burns-like in her lyrics: “Red Rose in the alley grows/ Through the cracks in the faded concrete/ Well heaven knows that’s the way it goes/ With a love so thorny and so sweet”. If you’re the strong, silent type you will enjoy ‘Flowers in my Hair’. Think of a young bride to be on the brink of a commitment. This enjoyable Capella has the lines: “You don’t have a lot to say/ We don’t talk much anyway/ I don’t know but I’ve been told/ A silent one’s got a heart of gold”. The final track ‘Stars’ is just beautiful.

Abigail Lapell is a talented musician, whether fingerpicking her electric guitar or moving across the keys on the piano. She has an engaging voice and some of her songwriting can be intriguing.  On this album Tony Dekker lends his voice to a few duets and they complement each other well. ‘Anniversary‘ has some upbeat earworms along with some elegiac laments but the eleven tracks knit together well on the whole. The assembled cast of musicians are obviously talented but in shaping the project’s intended  “spooky, resonant sound” the producers have stifled their contributions a little. It is as if they are removed from the album’s inner sanctum. Maybe it is intentional or perhaps the acoustics in St Mark’s are not as special as Dekker and Lapell at first thought.

‘Anniversary’ is still well worth a listen and a few more returns.


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