Church Bell Blues (True North)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., July 18, 2008
Catherine MacLellanChurch Bell Blues (True North)
Joining the recent influx of accomplished female singer-songwriters from Canada like Kathleen Edwards and Julie Doiron, Catherine MacLellan's sophomore LP unfolds with a simple, comforting beauty. Precise and pure, MacLellan's voice envelopes with graceful ease, touches of Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch flowing into a permeating influence of Joni Mitchell. "Emily's Song" and "River Valley Plains" snapshot memories both aching and joyous, while "There You Are" melts with a Cowboy Junkies longing. The album courses in confessional tones, mirrored by the imagistic flicker of passing landscapes and seasons that never dramatize ("Snow Day," "January Song"). The title track burns a bluesy apprehension, balanced by the electric guitar-inflected determination of "Brave Love." "Long Time" closes in memory and tribute to MacLellan's father, songwriter Gene MacLellan, culminating Church Bell Blues' ambivalent pull of loss and love. Though lulling in its familiarity, MacLellan's voice is stunning, welcome, and new.