CALGARY — You don’t have to listen for very long to hear the musical chemistry between roots dynamos Cara Luft and JD Edwards of super-duo The Small Glories.
Both artists have found success for their varied projects over the years—Luft with The Wailin’ Jennys and as a solo artist, and Edwards with his five-piece folk-rock band the JD Edwards Band, along with folk unit Dry Bones. Since banding together a few years ago, the two have toured steadily and are now unleashing their anticipated debut LP, Wondrous Traveler.
It includes new co-writes and several tracks from each artist’s own arsenal, re-worked with a Small Glories stamp, such as “Had I Paid,” written by Edwards and showered with Luft’s uplifting clawhammer banjo strums and the duo’s full-bodied vocal harmonies.
First paired together to perform during the West End Cultural Centre’s 25th Anniversary Concert in 2012, it was then that the two singer-songwriters realized that they were onto something special. A cover of Greg MacPherson’s song, “1,000 Stars,” which they performed that first night also appears on the new album.
A year went by before the two would reunite onstage again—but a spark was lit. And when a spot opened up for Edwards to join Luft on tour, he happily volunteered.
“We were playing to Cara’s audience,” says Edwards. “They had seen her in many different combinations and variations onstage and people really enjoyed this duo… By the end of that first tour, we decided that we were going to be a band.”
“I’ve been wanting to sing harmony with someone for a really long time, especially a guy,” Luft adds. “I had done the female harmony thing, and that was really beautiful, but I felt like I just needed a sonic shift. Singing with JD was like, ‘Holy crap! This is phenomenal. This guy is the best singer I’ve ever sung with.’”
Indeed, both artists have excellent sets of pipes. On a spirited, foot-stompin’ cover of Woody Guthrie’s classic, “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” the two powerhouse singers fittingly chant the chorus, “Ain’t nobody who can sing like me,” with a celebratory conviction.
Produced by Neil Osborne and recorded live to tape at Bottega Studios in Kelowna, B.C., new co-written originals include the road-worn folk tune, “Home,” a collaboration between Luft, Edwards, and multi-instrumentalist/producer Lewis Melville; and the mellow acoustic-laced balladry of “Fast Turning World” (co-written with Belly Hardy).
Musically, The Small Glories feels like a turning point for both of the veteran musicians, a period of reinvigoration, and a creative boost that couldn’t have come at a better time for Luft, especially.
“Singing with JD helped me fall in love with music again,” says Luft. “I’ve been slogging it out for a very long time…When The Small Glories started it happened at a time when I needed a shift and I needed a partner in crime. I needed to have that other voice and that other energy onstage. I didn’t realize I needed it until it started.”
The collaboration has had a similar effect on Edwards with old songs feeling new again, including the aforementioned “Had I Paid,” a version of which also appears on the JD Edwards Band’s 2011 album, Roads and Roads.
“I’ve played that song for many years and I think with The Small Glories it’s found its place,” says Edwards. “I’m really happy with where it is these days.”
The Small Glories perform at Bluebird North on April 6 (Vancouver), The Rogue Folk Club on April 9 (Vancouver), the Ironwood on April 28 (Calgary), The Almanac on April 29 (Edmonton) and Communitea Café on April 30 (Canmore). Manitobans can catch this summer during the Brandon Folk Festival in late July (Brandon). For more information on The Small Glories, visit thesmallglories.com.