Album Review: Trent Severn’s self-titled debut
By Sabrina Nanji
Trent Severn plays at The Dakota Tavern tonight
When the throngs of Torontonians at the Argos’ game on Sunday jeered Justin Bieber and cheered Gordon Lightfoot, it bolstered my faith in this city’s musical taste (no offence, Biebs). The CFL was reportedly attempting to attract younger crowds to the franchise — and it might have been on to something.
As my twenties roll on, I find myself shying away from depthless pop-driven songs and warming up to the reflective nature of the folk-roots revival. And Trent Severn just happen to embody the thoughtful songwriting I’m looking for, wrapped in a harmoniously twangy package.
The trio, from Stratford, Ont. (ironically, Biebs’ hometown), is deep-seated in Ontario folklore and wrought with Canadiana-heavy lyrics. With Emm Gryner on bass and stomp box, Dayna Manning on guitar and banjo and Laura C. Bates on violin, there is no lead singer — the three ladies share the spotlight for dulcet harmonies in the vein of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Earlier this month, the all-girl band made its debut with a 10-track self-titled record. With song titles such as “Muskoka Bound,” “Snowy Soul” and “Bluenose On a Dime” (for which they enlisted quintessential Maritimer Joel Plaskett on guitar and vocals), Trent Severn gushes patriotism and evokes images of gorgeous getaways up north. It also helps that they’re named after a series of waterways in cottage country.
For the most part, the album continues the laid-back, twangy trend, punctuated by a couple of fast-paced and upbeat numbers here and there. The result is a warmly nostalgic record padded with darkly pensive instrumentation that is few and far between these days. It’s evident that Trent Severn sing and play with the weight carried by old souls, but they can still throw in a wink with playful verses and jaunty songs. The combination makes for a beautifully balanced track list that serves as the perfect backdrop for this wintry weather.
But Trent Severn is not for everyone. There seems to be a stigma attached to the country scene in most music circles, and while folk music can be an accessible segue, these ladies are limited by their genre. Lyrics about the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Mulroney clan and road trips to Muskoka read like an inside joke, and while it is refreshing and reassuring to hear our history being so inspirational, at times, it can come off a bit corny.
However, we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt — this is, after all, their debut album. Time will tell whether they have true staying power outside of the (often limited) country fan base.