Sometimes it really pays to have this job.
And when you’re able to obtain a “hottest-ticket-in-town” for a sold-out show by an Island singer/songwriter about to springboard to a heightened trajectory in her musical career, it is just one of those times.
Meaghan Blanchard’s CD release for very first full-length album recorded in Athens, Ga., (with R.E.M. and B52‘s producer John Keane) called She’s Gonna Fly was, indeed, the show of the weekend last week as hundreds gathered at The Mack last Friday night to cheer on the songstress who has made the Island proud in her successful leaps and bounds over the past several years.
The evening began with an opening performance by U.K. singer/songwriter/banjoist Dan Walsh, who is currently on tour with Blanchard.
Walsh struck a match to ignite a fiery kickoff, immediately slicing into an ensemble of plucked out tunes from the British Isles, as they rang out bright and briskly from his banjo.
“Thought I’d go for a nice gentle start, you know,” Walsh laughed, after the wild applause subsided following the zipping tunes.
Walsh’s set continued with five songs that featured his great singing voice over top of ever-fast banjo licks, culminating in a massive finale solo that garnered an instant standing ovation.
After a brief intermission, Music P.E.I. executive director Rob Oakie (the night’s emcee) then had the pleasure of welcoming Blanchard onto the stage — decked out in her white cowboy boots, a polka dot dress and that long curly red hair flowing as always — as huge applause greeted and ushered her out to the mike at centrestage. With an excited wave hello, she then dove straight into her first song — the first single from the album, and first track, When You Used to Call My Name.
“This has got to be one of the overall best country sounds to ever come out of P.E.I. and the Maritimes as a whole,” was honestly my first thought, as Blanchard’s crystal-clear voice belted out this song’s insanely catchy melody over top of her strumming acoustic and backed up by an incredible six-piece band.
Indeed, with Alan Dowling on drums, Mark Geddes on bass, Natalie Sullivan and Hannah Rollwage on backing vocals, Gordie MacKeeman on fiddle and Ian Toms on electric guitar (with Johnny Ross on keys and Thomas Webb on pedal steel, who soon joined in), it seemed as though it had to be one of the best assembled backing bands this side of Toronto.
With a celebratory bird cage sitting next to her monitor on stage (in connection with She’s Gonna Fly, of course) Blanchard skillfully soared on through the album’s tunes in track-listing order: Cryin’ in Harmony, She’s Gonna Fly, All I’ve Lost, Dance With the Devil, Brown Paper Bag, Gamble or Save, Jenna’s Song, Runaway, Watchin’ the Dandelions Grow and When I’m Gone.
Highlights for me out of all of these were most definitely Jenna’s Song (a song for her sister that expresses that incomparable peace and joy of the Christmas Eves of our youth) and the heartstring puller with which many can identify, Watchin’ the Dandelions Grow.
The night was brought to a big close with an emotional surprise finale that consisted of a seven-piece UPEI vocal ensemble-backed version of When I’m Gone, which then brought about a huge standing ovation as Blanchard was called back to the stage to do her last tune on the album (that got everyone’s hands waving in the air), Seven Nut Pie.
And, as a fitting congratulatory gift, Blanchard’s manager Lloyd Doyle even presented her with the inspiration for that song — an actual Seven Nut Pie from Leonhard’s — as the night wrapped up on a truly sweet note.
Visit http://meaghanblanchard.com to check out and purchase She’s Gonna Fly for yourself.
And yes, in summary here, I agree with the thought that has surely entered into your head by this point: A more apt title for the CD at this stage in Blanchard’s career there could not be.
Next week: I’ll tell you all about tomorrow evening’s sure-to-be-glorious voyage on the MV Confederation with The Barra MacNeils, Chef Corbin and much more for Fall Flavours’ Chef on Board.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at email@example.com or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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