A few years ago some close friends of mine with very similar musical tastes exposed me to the music of Ember Swift but preceded my listening to the album with a warning that hearing Ember on CD is nothing like seeing her in a live performance. Since that initial warning Ive heard similar comments from many of Embers fans and had even come to the conclusion that I much preferred Embers live appearances when compared to her recorded ones, that is until recently. Now dont get me wrong, two of Embers studio recorded albums currently sit along side some of my other favorite musical selections, but when I took a listen to one of Embers two latest releases entitled The Wage is the Stage I could sense something different in the music.
Recorded during four of Embers live performances in Canada from March to July of 2000, The Wage is the Stage is about as close as you can get to experiencing a true sense of Embers live performance style without actually attending a concert. In an interview with Ember she confirmed mine and others thoughts about her studio recorded albums when compared to her live performances:
People kept saying to us: your live show is so much better than your records, no offense, and I thought...lets try and combine these two things.
Ember explained to me that even after hearing the new album her fans still think that they like seeing Ember live better than listening to her on CD. But who wouldnt enjoy a live performance more than a recorded one? Granted the studio recordings of some musicians are more polished than their live appearances which are sometimes lacking in energy and audience rapport. But this is certainly not the case at an Ember Swift concert which is very visually stimulating, and as Ember so accurately indicated to me:
...we play our instruments in weird and orthodox ways and we have a lot of fun and we laugh a lot, so it infects people and their laughter and their fun infects us, so thats what you miss when you only have a spinning disc in your stereo.
In fact I would venture to say that Ember Swift has more stage presence and rapport with her fans than most other musicians Ive ever seen play live. Musical talent is also certainly a factor in why fans love Embers music. A typical Ember Swift show, live or recorded CD features such fusions of musical styles as: folk-punk, funk-rock, jazz folk, folk-comedy, cow-punk, and mid-east-asian folk. So what do all these fusions of musical styles mean? Simply put anyone who attends an Ember Swift show or listens to any one of her CDs is likely to enjoy some or all of the music and to be impressed by the range of musical instruments and techniques featured by Ember and her band. Lyndell Montgomery is Embers bassist extordinare who plays the violin, bass, bowed guitar and sings backing vocals. Embers drummer is either the rhythmically talented Cheryl Reid or the Canadian drumming great Michelle Josef who has been active in the Canadian music scene for the past twenty seven years playing with such artists as David Wilcox, Prairie Oyster, Jann Arden, The Wild Strawberries, Big Sugar, the Edmonton Folk Festival House Band and more.
One thing I havent mentioned is the socially conscious and activist nature of many of Embers lyrics. Her songs go beyond the typical boy and girl relation ship problems so prominent in popular music to feature issues of sexism, environmentalism, poverty, community building, feminism, gender issues, and homosexuality.
Before her next tour through your town take a listen to Ember Swifts The Wage is the Stage, its as close as you can get to experiencing the energy level and musical brilliance present at a live Ember Swift show.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS: $5, Corporate Daddy, Freestylin Porpoise, Pek
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