Christine Fellows – Roses on the Vine (Vivat Virtute)
There’s no easy box in which to fit Christine Fellows. The Winnipeg artist is a singer-songwriter who collaborates with visual artists and choreographers, writing songs based on people and events generations apart. For most of her career she played piano; other than textural synths, there are few, if any, keyboards on this, her seventh album. It was co-produced by her life and writing partner, John K. Samson of the Weakerthans; she, in turn, plays the same role on his recent records. Their influence on each other is obvious, and fans of the intricate character studies in his songs will find plenty to love in the writing of Fellows.
Roses on the Vine might well be her finest work to date, even from just a purely musical standpoint. There’s too much ukulele here for my own tastes, but other than that the plaintive cellos, the blurpy and droning synths, stuttering drum machines, and the always eclectic percussion from the Weakerthans’ Jason Tait all colour these creations in indelible ways.
The title track is a straight-up country song, and it’s a beautiful one. “One More For the Road” should be the closing song at every Canadian folk festival in the next 10 years. “Me and Carmen” is deep into Sufjan Stevens territory: wistful but wise. “Evening Train” owes a debt to Television’s “Marquee Moon.” "Unleashed" is so pop it could be a Tegan and Sara song.
It all adds up to a dense but rewarding listen, an embrace of eclecticism, and a masterful display of craft. Phase two of her career starts now.
Stream: "Evening Train," "Unleashed" “Spell to Bring Lost Creatures Home”