Riffs through the Wilderness

Brenda Berezan was an aspiring songwriter when she moved to the Yukon wilderness. Having taken a break from music to run a business and raise her family, she has recently returned to performing and recording. She’s now releasing her second album, called Blue Through the Trees. It’s an indie-folk album that veers away from her debut with the her band Free Radicals.

Berezan moved to the Yukon from Alberta in early 1999, drawn by its pristine environment. “It was just because of the wilderness that’s up here,” Berezan says. “That was the big attraction. I lived off the grid for about eight years.”

While living in the bush, Berezan made a living publishing wilderness photography.

That communion with the Yukon’s nature is evident on the album. The song “Canoe” is a drift through lakes, rivers and skies, a song of peace, love and fishing. The title track, “Blue Through the Trees,” celebrates forests, clear skies and campfires.

But along with that love of nature comes a warning. Her song “Oilfields,” shows what could happen with indiscriminate development.

“That song was inspired by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the drilling,” she says. “It’s about contamination of the Northern environment.

“In fact, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been one of my musical heroes forever. She’s never been afraid to sing what she feels in terms of issues or politics. So needless to say, my relatives in Alberta, I don’t know what they’ll think of that song.”

Joining her on this album are the band The Free Radicals (Marc Paradis, Paul Stephens and Brian Foulds), and a couple of special guests. Dueting on “Let’s Get Together” is singer-songwriter Emm Gryner.

“She was kind of a gift to me from the Atlin Music Festival,” Berezan says. “The first time we met was when we were on the songwriting stage together, but she had seen my band play the day before. We hit it off, talking about having kids, because she’s married with a couple of toddlers. I kept in touch with her.”

Berezan met Gryner’s Trapper bandmate Sean Kelly in a similar way, meeting him through a music boot camp put on by Music Yukon and Coalition Music, who told her he’d be interested in playing guitar on her album. Kelly plays guitar on “Let’s Get Together.”

Berezan appreciates the kind of connections that are available to Yukon musicians.

“It’s neat living up here because sometimes you think you’re really isolated, then suddenly these gifts come to you – but they didn’t just come to me, I helped make them happen,” Berezan says.

The song “Valentine’s Day” is a duet with The Midnight Sons Band vocalist Alex Johnston. His voice, deep and rumbling, contrasts with Berezan’s, much like Paul Stephens’ heavy bass notes of the coda mixing with the tinkling, higher notes of Jordy Walker’s Fender Rhodes keyboard, the song reflects the isolation of both participants in a damaged love affair.

Walker and Berezan co-produced the album to create a sound that’s distinct from her previous recordings.

“It’s definitely not a far-out, quirky album,” she says. “I wanted to make a departure from things I had been doing. Jordy made a lot of decisions, but I let him have free rein. I wanted to open up the door to new things. I think his signature is really heavy on the recording. But I was really hungry for that.

“I think had I made the recording with someone else, somewhere else, it would have made a good recording, but to me this is a much more interesting recording.”

Blue Through the Trees comes out October 15 and will be available at Mac’s Fireweed Books. Watch for her CD release concert later this fall and her upcoming tour in the new year.

Outstanding Tracks: “Blue Through the Trees,” “Let’s Get Together” and “Valentine’s Day”

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