Erin Costello brings the past into the present: Classic Soul in her personal voice.

This is a pile of contradictions, thanks entirely to Erin Costello. Imagine her new album being downloaded via email from Pigeon Row Records, not really existing in another form in this humble reviewer’s domicile; just a 21st century digital musical promotion. But the music on this release was not only recorded On Tape (really: on reels of magnetized plastic strips dragged over small glass and metal charging units), but in . . .

dark-haired woman in street wearing blazer hand in her hair
Erin Costello’s recent album, “We Can Get Over” was recorded fairly live, but not out in the street! Image courtesy of the artist.

We can’t say it.

Ok. It’s recorded in mono. As in ‘monophonic sound’, not the stereophonic sound that we’ve taken for granted since the 60’s. I mean, she plays a Wurlitzer organ on this disc, for goodness’ sake!

“I think the stuff I was listening to when I was writing the songs for We Can Get Over (her second full- length CD) was primarily early soul stuff, and I just wanted to make an album that sounded like those albums. There was an air or breath with those albums that sounded like you could be in the room with the people when you were listening to it. So I just tried to make it the way they would have made it.

“I tried to do as little overdubs as possible (all of the bed tracks were recorded straight to tape): I wanted it to feel as immediate as possible. The drums, bass, guitar, piano, some of the vocals, and the organ parts were done live.”

Erin mentions she loves the sound of those records in their big vocals, the warmth of the voices.

“When I was initially writing the songs, I was just writing songs, but I was listening to so much of that (R&B) stuff that it ended up coming out in the arrangement of the tunes. For some of them, I think I could take them and do them in a different way, but I just had it so much in my ear that I wanted to go 100% with (the New York Soul sound) in the way that I recorded it.”

Dark-haired woman in black blouse bust shot smoking cigarette
Erin! Bad girl! Do you know what they say about women who smoke? Do you care? I doubt it . . . Photo by Mairin Prentiss.

Consider the difference between Erin’s first full-length, Fire and Fuss, 2009, and this disc: “My last record was very introspective: Who am I? What do I want? This is more of a proclamation: This is who I am, and this is what I believe.” MUSICAlive! asks her if she expects to keep varying her styles as her career progresses.

“I want to find my voice, but I don’t think I need to be limited by genre to do that. So I might do an album of jazz tunes next, or it might be country tunes; whatever the songs seem to require. At this point, I have no idea what’s going to come out next, other than this one song Stephen (Fearing) and I have written, which, depending on how it’s produced, could be in any number of collections of songs.”

If this seems ambitious for a singer/songwriter less than 5 years into her career, keep in mind she’s also done some minor things like arrange and perform with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Blue Engine String Quartet (who contributed to this recording).

“It was a really amazing concert (which you can find at CBC’s Concerts On Demand) . . . We’ve done that concert a couple of times since then . . . I grew up playing classical piano stuff, and then when I went to school I studied jazz piano, and loved pop tunes. It was kind of all a mesh of stuff.

“Between 2000 and 2004, I was doing quite a lot of (electroacoustic & soundscape composition) when I was in school, but when I left I couldn’t afford the equipment, so I started writing songs. I didn’t know anyone to play my classical compositions, so I ( just had to) play music myself. That’s really why I started writing songs: I could play my music myself and sing it.”

Oh, right: don’t forget the voice that propels these 50‘s-ish songs. She’s got it down. And it’ll be at the Lantern Community Church, this Thursday, March 28th, (1401 10th Ave. S.E..) at 7:30pm.

Posted by Allen Thai

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.