With nearly twice the number of band members to tracks (11 members, 6 songs) Kingston, Ontario’s, The Gertrudes’ second EP is a slightly haunted bluegrass garden party.
Equipped trumpet and trombone, ukulele and mandolin and theremin— amongst the less obvious instruments on board, Hard Water manages bold almost-anthems (“The River”), more familiar, near-traditional instrumental tracks (“Kansas”, understated slow songs (“A New Sound”), and what might be the most unique to their multi-layers and textures— breakout jams (“Advancement of the Human Age”). Such extensive “jamming” may not be your thing (in my case, it is not) but the talent and thoughtfulness in these arrangements is undeniable. “The Advancement Of The Human Age” shows range and capacity, and presents as a nursery rhyme-turned-group love song (which I’m pretty sure is actually a warning song).
Including the bonus secret track—a CRFC excerpt complete with banjo solo— The Gertrudes make a risky move of including 3 seven-minute tracks on this short recording, and it works. (The bonus track itself, while a compelling idea, doesn’t get to the aforementioned solo until the final minute and breaks the flow of the EP.)
Occasionally vocals get lost in the mix of instruments and busy bustle of the songs otherwise and it’s hard to tell if this is intentional.
The highlight of the album for me, is the title track, written by local vegetable farmer, Ian Stutt and a filling portion of harmonies and seemingly simple, but incredibly powerful lyrics.
This orchestraic folk ensemble might make you consider dancing at brunch.
By Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Nov 2, 2009