Kim Beggs returned to the Yukon between touring, with a bunch of new songs and a new CD, Blue Bones. In January, Beggs went to Vancouver to record at Black Hen Studio with producer/musician Steve Dawson.
“My songs are are based on truth of emotion,” she explains, referring to a marked-up lyric sheet for Firewater Bones, a song written for her late brother Howie Beggs, who suffered from the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
“I’ve been working on that song for a couple of years, he passed away almost three years ago.
“This was really difficult to write, partly because of the emotion, without it being a blaming song, but to try getting inside heavy hearts.”
Beggs rewrote the lyrics even while it was being recorded. “I hope I did OK. Songwriting is not an exact science.”
Another song, Maiden Heart, was written for Ivan Coyote’s new song-and-spoken-word CD, to accompany one of Coyote’s northern love stories.
“She told me the circumstances of the story, and I felt the emotion. I had to create a song with that similar emotion, but not repeat the story.”
Beggs and Coyote recorded the song together for Coyote’s project, then Beggs recorded her own version. “It was a really cool experience, to go in and do the same song but in a much sparser way.”
Beggs met Dawson when she chose him to accompany her at the Kluane Bluegrass Festival in 2007. “Over the last couple of years I had conversations with him about the possibility of recording with him or at other studios, and in the end I decided to go with Steve.
“He gets back to me, stays on top of communications, and he seemed to be willing to work within the terms of the budget.”
They gathered together a team of musicians from all over North America to record on the album. Dawson brought a core band of drummer John Raham, bassist Keith Lowe, keyboardist Chris Gestrin and vocalist Jeanne Tolmie.
“They’re great guys, everyone was peaceful, calm, creative, subtle, and that’s partly because that’s the kind of people Steve likes to work with.
“I brought Natalie Edelson from Whitehorse, she’s totally awesome, I love, love singing with her.”
Rounding out the album are violinist Moritz Behm, Joey Wright on mandolin, and harmony vocals from Grammy Award-winner Laurie Lewis, The Breakmen’s Ben Rogalski, and singer/songwriter Gurf Morlix.
“I met Gurf when I was showcasing at South by Southwest Music Festival. I never imagined that just only a year later, I’d be getting him to sing harmony on my album. Gurf is more known as a guitar player. He’s a songwriter, really nice songs, and he has kind of a gruff voice.” She laughs, remembering his response, “He said he was surprised when I asked, people don’t usually ask him to sing on their albums. He said he’s anxious to hear the album when it’s done.
“When I think of what I’m really fond of on the album,” she says of her choices, “it’s the vocals. I’m a singer, so the vocals resonate with me. It’s really nice to have different textures of vocals.”
The album was recorded in Vancouver at the Factory, where Aerosmith used to record, and it went fast. “We worked three days to record the bed tracks, and then got out. Steve records albums in two weeks. He works really fast, and then the mixing took a couple of weeks.”
Dawson’s production doesn’t obscure the honest emotion and simplicity Beggs’ songs are known for and are not lost on this album. She credits Dawson for his understanding, particularly on Summertime Lonesome Blues.
“I remember saying to Steve, ‘There’s something about this song that even when it’s me and my crappy guitar that it still conveys something. I want that to be in the production song, but something that has the awkwardness in it.’
“I think he picked up on that. He said to Keith, ‘Don’t play it like you know the blues, play it like you don’t know the blues,’ and I thought that was really cool. He gets it.”
The whole experience of recording outside the territory, with a different producer and different personnel from her previous albums, is described by Beggs as, “creating a whole different palette of colours to work with.
“An album can be a document of what you do live, you can make it so that it’s the same band playing all of the songs, but for what I want to do with this album, I’m just letting go of all that. When people are listening to it at home in the living room, it doesn’t have to be. It’s not proof, it’s a work of art.”
Kim Beggs’ CD, Blue Bones, will be released on Black Hen Records, July 21. You can pre-order it by going to www.kimbeggs.com.