Elizabeth Shepherd is among Canada’s most promising young talents and she has the widespread critical acclaim to prove it. She arrived on the international scene when her debut album was voted “Top 3 Jazz albums of 2007″ by the listeners of The Gilles Peterson Show on BBC Radio 3. The rave reviews for her first two studio albums as well as performances at prestigious venues like Tokyo’s Cotton Club, London’s Jazz Café and the Hollywood Bowl have been extremely gratifying for Shepherd, but the Toronto-based singer/songwriter/pianist has never been content to rest on past achievements.
Shepherd’s debut Start To Move (2006) and follow-up Parkdale (2008) were both JUNO* nominated (*Canada’s Grammy equivalent) and described as “pushing the boundaries of jazz”. With the release of her stunning third album Heavy Falls the Night, she pushes well past those boundaries to carve out her own niche of smart, sophisticated and adventurous music.
Shepherd’s explorations are as successful as they are unexpected. She collaborates with a Japanese DJ, a Canadian poet, and an Afrobeat producer. She writes songs for the dancefloor. She transforms a twangy 70s hit into a moving soul recording. She writes songs about everything from feminism to homelessness to suicidal loved ones.
“These are songs that are dear to me, about the people who matter the most to me, about their suffering, their stories, the threads that link us, for better or worse” Shepherd says. “I’m proud of this record because it’s honest and the one that comes closest to my voice, to my heart.”
It’s also the first album that Shepherd produced herself. The album was recorded over 15 months, mixed by studio ace Scott Lake (Sam Roberts, City and Colour), and features some of Canada’s finest players, including long-time collaborators Scott Kemp and Colin Kingsmore.
Heavy Falls the Night takes the listener on a dynamic musical ride. It’s hard to pick a favourite track from such an eclectic album but, depending on your taste, it could be the dancefloor ready Seven Bucks, co-produced by Japanese mixmaster DJ Mitsu The Beats (Dwele, Jose James), and inspired by an NFB documentary. Or it could be The Taking – Shepherd’s powerful tribute to the women who came before her – knocked out in 11/8 time. Or maybe it’s the supremely soulful reworking of Anne Murray‘s 70s soft-rock radio staple Danny’s Song, one of the few secular songs that made it past the gatekeepers in Shepherd’s Salvation Army childhood home.
Add to that the playful, old school soul of Numbers, the life-affirming live electronica of High and the whispered confessions of the haunting title track, and you have one of the most unique and memorable albums of 2010 in Elizabeth Shepherd’s Heavy Falls the Night.