Christine Fellows illuminates the liminal on Roses on the Vine | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Christine Fellows illuminates the liminal on Roses on the Vine 

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click to enlarge Christine Fellows

Christine Fellows

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It’d be a mistake to call Christine Fellows’s two previous albums “concept albums,” but each has a singular point of inspiration: Femmes de Chez Nous (2011) was born out of the Canadian singer-songwriter and poet’s research into the history of women in Winnipeg (conducted during her residency at Le Musée de Saint-Boniface, a Franco-Manitoban culture museum housed in a former Winnipeg nunnery). Burning Daylight (2014) is a collection of odes to the Canadian north, partly inspired by Jack London stories. On her most recent record, last year’s Roses on the Vine, Fellows shifts focus to a seemingly smaller scale: a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, children planning for the future, and other moments of transformation and connection. She’s joined by a host of veteran musicians, including her longtime collaborators Jason Tait, Greg Smith, and John K. Samson (Samson is also her husband, and plays with Tait and Smith in indie-rock four-piece the Weakerthans). Fellows, Tait, and Samson have been working together since her first solo record, 2000’s 2 Little Birds, and Smith joined them two years later for The Last One Standing. Roses shows Fellows in peak form. On “Spell to Bring Lost Creatures Home,” she expertly reconfigures the work of poet Kathleen Raine in a song that feels like a haunting blessing underscored by menacing strings. The album ends with “The Swimmer,” a gentle tribute to Faron Hall, a local Winnipeg hero. He saved three people from drowning in separate instances in 2009 and received several awards for his bravery, including the Mayor’s Medal of Valor, but he also struggled with homelessness, the lasting effects of family tragedy (both his mother and his sister were murdered), and alcoholism; in 2014 he drowned in Winnipeg’s Red River. In the song’s final moments, Fellows offers a hand to Hall, singing “You are not alone / The world is your home / You’ll always ring clear to me.” Though the world that Fellows is singing from—a world that would’ve given Hall the support he needed—isn’t quite here yet, just before the echoes of her voice fade away, you can almost see it.   v

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