Local singer songwriter Breagh MacKinnon released her self-titled debut recording in January. The EP is a surprisingly strong effort for someone who left their teenage years behind only a month after the album’s release. With limited performing experience under her belt, MacKinnon has quickly developed a knack for melody and lyrics, and her guitar playing and arranging skills are compelling and even refreshingly unique. Joined by guests Jennie MacDougall on cello, Redmond MacDougall on percussion and banjo, Max Mackeigan on bass, Emi Xidos on bass, Eric Pushie on electric guitar and Todd Mercer on drums, the instrumentation is kept sparse and simple for the most part, but serves to create an accessible listen that puts the songs front and center.
The album begins with the haunting “Layers” that features a syncopated guitar trading off on a tasty lick with the bass guitar and vocals. Banjo and hand percussion join in to help drive a more straightforward pulse that frames the sophisticated and catchy chorus.
“Knees” is driven by staccato plucking of the stand up bass, while a muted guitar sound adds an almost ukulele-like exoticness that complements the playful lyrics.
“Heartstrings” is an accomplished full-band pop-rock production, whose anthemic chorus and string-section infused climax would sound right at home blasting from a car window during a late Summer “Top Nine at Nine”.
The guitar and bass of torch song “Pretty Lies” slink, creep and run along like the sly thief who makes off with the heart of the tune’s protagonist. The noir tone of the music and the vocals combine to form a chilling backdrop to this tale of “lazy days and crazy nights”.
“Encore” offers a more straight up, upbeat folk feel with a lone lo-fi guitar strumming out a whimsical tale of the “garden girl” and her friend the fortune teller.
“Inhale Exhale“‘s minor chords bring the focus back to a more sophisticated sound. The sparse instrumentation and laid back feel are still rooted in folk, but a lyrical and sonic darkness adds a touch of mystery and maturity. Hand percussion kicks in near the mid-point of the song and provides a rhythmic lift.
“Good Man” provides a modern take on the Cape Breton working song, exploring the life of the breadwinner who must commute the length of Canada to provide for his family.
With local music scene fixtures Mike Shepherd providing album design, Nathan Boone supplying photographs and Chris Jones engineering the audio, this debut is a thoroughly professional effort and one all participants should be proud of.