This Canadian artist is part singer/songwriter part rock star. She’s a veteran performer and recording artist who’s attracted audiences to her intimate and at times flamboyant sound. Did I mention she’s critically acclaimed? Meet Norine Braun. This woman has poured ten tons of life experience into Conventus The Eye Of The Heart, her ninth studio album, and come out the other side smiling. Emerging from a personal health battle and marrying her partner of twenty-five years, she developed the record almost as a form of music therapy, nursing herself back to health one song at a time. Her catchy roots-rock references classic greats like Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell with just a touch of Janis Joplin gone soft on country and hard on the blues. Her distinctive vocal vaults from creamy lows to searing falsetto against the backdrop of her tried-and-true session band.
"Lightning Strikes Twice" celebrates a second chance at romance over a chugging, head-nodding guitar riff; "Boy" explores the complexity of maternal love in the context of adoption; "Take The Sleek Train" is a trippy, Doors-esque ode to the healing powers of Mother Nature. For all its focus on emotional themes, the standout track has to be the barbed blues-rock number called “99%.” It sets it sights on the very contemporary political toss up of financial inequality. Over an irresistible barroom piano loop and a funky break beat, Braun asks ‘Do we pay for groceries or do we pay the rent? Scrounging in the garbage we’re the 99%’. It’s fresh, it’s relevant and it comes with a sting in its tail.
“Fire Flames” plays with a gentle Afro Cuban feel on the ride and toms and to me that is a statement of musical integrity in that band of hers. Don’t just play a song how you think it goes. Find out what where the song is from and look deeper into the styles books. The guitar follows an atypical modal scale that fits Braun’s already unique vocal choices. It’s music that would accompany an acid trip as well as a late night grill out.
Where else are you going to find that kind of eclecticism? While at other times the record does have the tendency to drift into romanticism, it’s always charming and always authentic. You can hear that Braun loves what she does, and passion of this sort is infectious. Most importantly, in an age of over-produced and pre-packaged pop stars, Braun is defiantly different. The music industry has a way of creating sheep and the ones who veer away from norms and hot minute success deserve their due.
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