Exactly five years after releasing her third album, Of Ice and Men, Whitehorse singer Barbara Chamberlin is about to launch a new one titled Boomerang Girl, under the nom de guerre of Queenie and the B’s. Unlike her previous efforts, which were “all over the map” genre-wise, this one hews a straighter line.
“It’s all blues kind of stuff. Blues is such a great base to draw from, because it’s just so solid,” she says.
“And I love playing with blues musicians, because they have that great groove happening.”
As a nod to the early days of blues, Chamberlin has included her take on the Son House standard, “Walkin’ Blues’, immortalized by legendary guitarist Robert Johnson in the 1930s. It’s one of only two tunes on the 12-cut album she didn’t write herself. The other is a gospel number by local musician Annie Avery called “Sunday Sisters”, who sings with her on the album.
Chamberlin readily admits the musical fare on Boomerang Girl might not pass muster with the purest of blues purists.
“I wrote a reggae tune that’s on there as well, but a lot of blues musicians will switch over to reggae and include a couple of them in there,” she says. “So I hope that’s allowable from the blues police, but we’ll find out, I guess.”
That song, called “Shine”, is dedicated to a college friend, a talented classical musician with a master’s degree.
“I’ve watched him get married and become somebody who goes gambling and plays video games, rather than taking his art and doing something with it,” she says.
“It’s about people of our age who lose their passion, and they’re distracted by other things, and they lose their raison d’être.”
There’s also a “more edgy, more Jimi Hendrix-like” cut, and Chamberlin’s first piece for flute, an instrumental called “Fireflies” that doesn’t disguise its Jethro Tull lineage.
“It’s kind of Tull meets the blues, but the Tull band is kind of blues-based as well. I’m really happy about that one.”
Boomerang Girl also offers a couple of break-up songs, including the soulful “Just a Little Kiss”, about the disintegration of a long-distance relationship, and the teasing “You’re Gonna to Miss Me When I’m Gone”.
Two of the tracks arose from Chamberlin’s participation two years ago in the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) challenge, in which musicians attempt to write 14 songs in 28 days. One of those, the title song, reflects her own experience as someone who loves travelling almost as much as music, which can strain personal relationships.
As she explains it, the message is, “Hey, I love you, I love the Yukon, but I really have to go travelling. I have to see these places, and I have to see my friends in other places. And then I’m going to come back, because I’m a boomerang girl.”
Lyrically, she captures that message with sparsely-written images, such as:
I’m a 747 with a vista view / But I’ll be coming right back at you.
Chamberlin began the current crop of songs about three years ago, often writing in the car, or during the occasional lull in her work schedule.
“I have a theory that songs are given to you, not that you create them, although you do,” she says. “But it’s like you catch them out of the air as they’re going by.”
For the new album, released as Queenie and the B’s, Chamberlin recruited multi-award-winning Vancouver bluesman Terry Robb as her guitarist and producer. Other musicians include bassist John Pounds and drummer Brian Foxworth, both from Portland, Oregon. Robb will accompany Chamberlin on a community mini-tour, with performances in Mayo (September 17) and Dawson (September 18), followed by house concerts in Crestview (September 19), Marsh Lake (September 20), Haines Junction (September 24), Riverdale (September 26), ending at the Globe Theatre in Atlin (September 27).
He will also be on hand for the CD release concert at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse on Thursday, September 25, at 8:00 p.m., along with local musicians Paul Stephens on bass, Marc Paradis on drums and Pam Phillips on back-up vocals. Tickets are available at Well-Read Books for $20.