Striving for the Light: Amelia Curran’s Watershed

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Amelia Curran covers a range of feelings on Watershed, her eighth album. I say feelings instead of emotions. If anything the album is very not-emotional. It deals with feelings and emotions but it is very matter of fact. The songs might not even be described as being about one topic or another, but a bunch of themes run throughout the album over all. It feels more conversational. It ebbs and flows.

The themes shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has kept up with what Amelia Curran has been up to. She has been an outspoken feminist; openly discussing misogyny in the music industry. Her work with It’s Mental as a mental health advocate (itsmental.ca) and her own mental health has featured in her music.

But if it seeped in before it is a body of water here on Watershed (pardon the unintentional water puns). Curran is being more open on this album. And this is someone already known for baring her soul to an audience.

It all starts with a cymbal crash and head-bopping groove in Move A Mile. It’s urgent. It’s gutsy. For someone as deft with a turn of phrase as Curran there is very little dancing around the point. If she has any fears left as a songwriter they are not evident here. Vocally she is downtrodden, delicate, and vulnerable. A moment later defiantly exuberant.

Watershed hearkens the 90s rock songwriter record as much as it caters to Curran’s folkier leanings. There are whispers of Jane Siberry, Natalie Merchant, and Sean Panting. I’m not saying it’s a 90s album. But there’s a definite nod to that era.

Like many of the 90s best albums there is a hopefulness in the darkness. Hopefulness doesn’t mean positivity or optimism, just that in the midst of that darkness there is something to strive for, or perhaps more accurately, to struggle for.

There was a rock band present on They Promised You Mercy, Curran’s previous album, but here they have turned up the dirt on the amps. There is more than a few heavily distorted guitars, lots of delays and reverbs and at least one tongue-in-cheek nod to Arcade Fire (if I’m not mistaken).

It sounds like this was an emotional album to make, but doesn’t sound like it was all work. There was definitely some fun had. Guaranteed there were a few times somebody laughed at how cool or rawkin’ that sound was.

For those die-hard acoustic Amelia fans don’t panic! There is a still a number of her trademark finger-picked ballads with mind-bendingly deep lyrics. There is just more of a mix of the super mellow mind-benders and the more rockier mind-benders.

Curran co-produced Watershed with Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, The Wooden Sky, Jill Barber), Erin Costelo provided some very tasty string and horn arrangements and Shakura S’Aida rips out a soul singing guest vocal on No More Quiet. There are stand out tracks but that would basically be the whole album. Just go get it in your ears.

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Jerry Stamp

Jerry Stamp is best known for being a musician and songwriter. Now he’s a graphic designer. Today he is a music writer. What’s he doing now? No. Jerry put that down!

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