Classically trained in guitar and well-versed in the banjo, Kim Barlow has been releasing albums of her own hauntingly beautiful roots/folk music for years, notably in her 2003 Juno award-nominated album, Gingerbread and in 2007’s Champ.
And here we only scratch the surface for a taste of what Barlow has been up to.
In addition to her solo material, Barlow has recently recorded an album, with The Burning Hell’s Mathias Kom, simply titled Spring Breakup. The album itself, originally intended to be a solo record, recalls a sort of folk/roots version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood.
Barlow’s banjo and Kom’s ukulele are perfectly matched. The two trade verses back and forth, Barlow’s sweet, hushed tones paired with Kom’s steady baritone.
The subject matter itself needs no introduction; the album title sums it up: “It just kind of made sense to do it as a collaboration with Mathias,” says Barlow. “We discovered we both had a lot of breakup songs.”
Also, soon to be released, an album with local old-time band, Annie Lou, a group consisting of Barlow, Anne Louise Genest, Lindy Jones – and, although no longer performing with the band, Keitha Clark.
Upon first listen, the songs sound as if they’re straight out of an Appalachian songbook despite almost all being original compositions of Genest’s designs.
The latest project in the works?
A collaboration with local performers, Fiona Solon and Kyle Cashen. The as yet untitled collective re-imagines electronic music into a more folk setting with a modern touch.
Barlow explains, “I’m not abandoning the electronic side of things, either; I’m putting my banjo through a delay and doing some looping and stuff like that.”
A passion for traditional folk music with a more modern twist is a common theme for Barlow. It is something she received a taste of while performing at the Sappy Festival last summer, in New Brunswick, and as part of the Pan Canadian New Folk Ensemble with Old Man Luedecke and Christine Fellows.
Barlow is not content to just rest on the laurels of folk tradition; instead, she embraces both traditional and modern ideals.
It’s this forward thinking that ensures we spend just as much time looking ahead as we do looking back on her career, always leaving us wondering what will come next. “It’s kind of fun, what’s going on right now [in Canadian folk music],” says Barlow.
“There’s the heavy folk tradition in Canada. The big folk festivals have been getting entrenched in traditional straight-up stuff and I’m just kind of bored with it.”
Barlow’s albums can be purchased at Mac’s Fireweed Books, CD Plus and Triple J’s Music. You can also check out her MySpace at www.myspace.com/kimbarlow. Spring Breakup can be found at www.myspace.com/springbreakup.