Scarlett Jane – Stranger (2014)

Scarlett Jane’s Stranger was initially released independently in 2013, but a remixed and remastered version seems primed to launch the Toronto-based duo into new territory.

Andrea Ramolo and Cindy Doire met more than 10 years ago, but they didn’t become Scarlett Jane until 2011. Ramolo had two solo albums under her belt, while Doire was developing quite a following in French Canada thanks to three albums of her own. But what was once dynamic becomes all the more potent together, with Scarlett Jane embodying both a spirit of the blues that can only come through playing through tiny Toronto venues and a sense of grandeur that can only come by way of having big dreams.

So Stranger, awarded two Canadian Folk Music Award nominations, features 11 tunes that condense the road thus far for these two “road warriors” and distill it into sinewy slivers of pop, country, folk, roots, and something in between. The songs came together over the course of two months in 2011, with writing happening in Mexico and the northern pieces of Ontario.

“Aching Heart” is the first tune on Stranger, a mournful bit of Emmylou Harris-inspired broken-heartedness. Doire and Ramolo blend their vocals with equal parts regret and somehow-I’ll-get-by-ness, picking things up in the beautifully-tuned chorus just in time to lose it all over again. There’s also “Can’t Come Back,” a romping barn burner that rails like someone spiked the punch at the box social. And “Wild Fire” trots away to close the record under the blue moon, embodying the spirit of a necessary runaway.

Pensive moments abound, like the patient “Burning Up” with its beautiful piano chording. Once again, Ramolo and Doire blend their vocals and get the most of their dissimilar textures. They effortlessly combine forces in a way that staggers, especially as the piece kicks into second gear.

Stranger’s blend of vocal prowess and shadowy roots is intoxicating stuff, from the outset of the aforementioned “Aching Heart” to the closing notes of “Wild Fire.” In between lie pieces of fire and stone from Canada’s darker corners, but there’s an emergent light to Scarlett Jane that keeps the shadows just within reach.

Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.