Winnipeg Free Press album review

FOLK / ROOTS 
The Small Glories 

Wondrous Traveler (Independent) 

Can two singer-songwriters be better than one? Yes, emphatically, yes, if the two in question are Cara Luft and JD Edwards, playing and singing together as the Small Glories. 

Briefly, for the uninitiated, singer and multi-instrumentalist Luft was a founding member of the Wailin’ Jennys, but went solo before that group’s second album; Edwards is a masterful singer whose band has wrung out many a honky-tonk. They first played together in 2012 but didn’t commit to joining forces until 2014. 

It’s our loss they didn’t do it sooner because Edwards and Luft are a folk-roots powerhouse. As Luft clawhammers the opening banjo notes to album starter Had I Paid, Edwards claps in time and the pair begin singing an earnest, rollicking tale of living out their musical dreams that perfectly blends their voices and conjures a spark that’s palpable throughout this album’s 10 songs. 

Recorded at an analogue studio Kelowna, B.C., with producer Neil Osborne (frontman of 54-40), Wondrous Traveler is the Small Glories’ first full-length recording and it’s a richly organic document of all that Luft and Edwards can do. Their voices weave in and out of each other with ease (check out the harmonizing and counter-melodies on Something to Hold Onto) yet they manage to give each other space as well, as on Old Garage, which sees Edwards tell a wistful, aching tale of his grandfather, or Home, on which Luft gently explores every traveller’s greatest longing until she’s eventually joined by Edwards’ soaring voice and a choral chorus. 

As good as the original songs are, the most joyous track here is a version of Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg’s Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, on which you can actually hear both singers giggling as the song ends. It’s magic. ★★★★ 

Download: Had I Paid, Old Garage, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key 

— John Kendle

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