Anticipation can be a double-edged sword.
When you have certain expectations for a record and it proves to be everything you hoped for, you’re ecstatic.
Conversely, when it doesn’t live up to those expectations, the level of your disappointment increases accordingly.
My expectations for “Deeper”, singer-songwriter Tara MacLean’s much anticipated follow-up to 2017’s “Atlantic Blue” were high. That’s because she has consistently outdone herself since releasing her very first record for Nettwerk in 1996. Those expectations were also juiced by the work I’ve seen her do since she returned home to P.E.I. a couple of years ago.
Was I being realistic?
Absolutely, as it turns out.
“Deeper”, simply put, is a superb record.
In 2017, MacLean released her first independent album, “Atlantic Blue”, the soundtrack to a highly successful show she wrote about the history of East Coast music. “Atlantic Blue - The Stories of Atlantic Canada’s Iconic Songwriters, had two full-length runs, three nights a week, in Charlottetown in the summers of 2017 and 2018 at The Guild Theatre and returns this summer for its third season as a part of the Charlottetown Festival.
Since MacLean’s last solo release, the mother of three girls has been travelling across Canada, as well as to Nashville and Los Angeles, writing songs in preparation for this record.
It is a powerful, emotionally charged record, the kind you make when you’ve been through a lot in your life and you not only survive but come out stronger on the other side with a deep appreciation for the experience and what it has taught you about yourself, your inner strengths and the people around you.
Many of the songs on “Deeper” are personal, but they are also universal because they speak to things most of us have been through if you’ve lived any length of time on this planet: love; loss; joy; sadness; self-discovery; endings and new beginnings; the remarkable ability of the human heart to love again when your head tells you no.
music, which embraces multiple genres, is every bit as interesting and as diverse as the lyrics, and MacLean’s performance is simply stunning. Her voice is a remarkable instrument, warm and gentle as a summer afternoon one minute, dark, brooding and powerful as a thunderstorm the next.
MacLean wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs on this set, collaborating on five of them with Dennis Ellsworth. She also collaborated on one track with Gordie Sampson and Damhnait Doyle.
MacLean co-produced “Deeper” with Ellsworth, with additional production by Colin Gilmore Buchanan, Bill Bell and Gordie Sampson.
She recruited some of P.E.I.’s brightest and best to work on this record. In addition to Ellsworth, Tim Chaisson, Meaghan Blanchard, Catherine MacLellan and Alicia Toner are all featured here. She also reached out to acclaimed Aboriginal artist Hubert Francis from Elsipogtog First Nation and Halifax-based keyboard player Kim Dunn.
Francis, Gilbert Sark and Senator Brian Francis also share a writing credit on “Beneath the Path of Crows”, a deeply moving piece about the historic mistreatment of Aboriginals in Canada.
“Deeper” was recorded on P.E.I. at The Hill Sound Studio, engineered by Adam Gallant and mixed by Buchanan.
Choice offerings on this set include “Deeper”, “Edge of the Sea”, “Ghosting”, “Love Never Dies”, “Beneath the Path of Crows”, “Gently Down The Stream” and a cover of The Cure’s “Love Song”, which Adele recorded for her “21” album.
Doug Gallant is a freelance writer and well-known connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Saturday. To comment on what he has to say or to offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.