THE SMALL GLORIES - WONDROUS TRAVELER
By Eric Lusk
The Small Glories are yet another example of Winnipeg’s seemingly industrial ability to churn out quality music. The folk/Americana duo is made up of Cara Luft (banjo) and JD Edwards (guitar), both of whom are veteran songwriters in the Canadian music scene.
The Small Glories’ first full length album, Wondrous Traveler, is an exercise in minimalism. Making use of only banjo and guitar as the lead instruments, the duo delivers a magnetic performance with the help of their dynamic vocals. The best example of this is the opening track Had I Paid, which begins with a picked banjo, simple hand-clapping, and the tandem singing of Edwards and Luft. The end of the first verse sees more layering in the upbeat percussion, followed by a swift rise of intensity during the chorus, which continues until the ending notes of the track.
Holding On brings down the pace from its predecessor. Luft’s voice is front and centre in this song, politely opposing Edwards’ slight dominance on the previous track. She gracefully meanders through the entirety of the song, helping it swell to the chorus and settle to the verse with continuity.
The third song on this album, Home, is my personal favourite. Although the melody, lyricism and composition in general are all good, it’s the chorus which I find the most captivating. Sung by Luft with choral support, the height of the track is truly something else. Here The Small Glories build an enormous soundscape, from the top of which a cascading “la la la” rumbles down to eventually lie amongst a fading outro and the sound of chirping frogs. The cascade itself feels held back, as though the singers were trying to slow the descent of an object pulling them along. This effect makes for a glowing chorus and a reason to hit “repeat” over and over and over… How is it that every song titled Home is always so good?
Much like the opener, the closing title track is dynamically fascinating. Opening slowly, Wondrous Traveler takes about two full minutes to pick up, but it does not disappoint. Melodic and filled with Luft’s adept banjo playing, this song is one of the best on the album and is well-deserving of its use as the title track. The song is definitely unique in its use of solfège (singing sol-fa syllables to the correct note), a clear sign of The Small Glories’ creativity.
The change in tone throughout Wondrous Traveler is really quite impressive. For instance, after the opening track delivers intensity with its sheer force and well-timed rests, the listener is sent into Holding On with its downtempo melody as smooth as silk. This juxtaposition between tracks sets the tone for the rest of the album and shows the amount of talent held by these musicians. All in all a great album – thanks again, Winnipeg.