Sad to the Bone

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Kim Beggs develop as an artist from the beginning.

From her first performances supporting Kim Barlow and Anne-Louise Genest, and a few solo sets at the Whitewater Wednesday Jam, Beggs has grown as a songwriter and singer into a national and international talent.

Her new CD,Blue Bones, recorded in Vancouver with Steve Dawson and musicians from all over North America, is bringing Beggs some national attention.

Beggs’ songwriting really stands out on this CD. She uses concrete imagery to convey the emotional meaning of her songs. Her use of bones — in Bring Out Your Bones,Firewater Bones and The Longest Dream — refers to a feeling that goes straight to the fundamental structure of the people she sings about.

Blues may be a passing mood, but Blue Bones shows a sadness that goes to the core.

This is especially true of the songs she wrote for her late brother, Howie Beggs. Born with FASD and adopted into the Beggs family at three months, Howie led a troubled life that was just beginning to turn around when he was struck down by cancer at 36.Firewater Bones recounts his difficult life.

The Longest Dream was one of the last songs written for this album and one of the quickest to write. With its simple lyrics and melody, the song is a beautiful heartfelt farewell to his spirit.

Other characters on this CD have blue bones: the homeless woman wearing Mama’s Dress, the Maiden Heart who was brought up low and raised up by a Northern love, and the hard-drinking lovers of Summertime Lonesome Blues. Beggs’ lyrics bring them to life and ensure they stay with you, as you listen to this album again and again.

Mixed in with these songs of longing are lighter songs, such as Can’t Drive Slow Yodel and Terrible Valentine, and covers like I’m Thinking Tonight of Your Blue Eyes, that show the tenderness of Beggs’ voice.

Backing Beggs is a core acoustic band supplied by producer Dawson. Moritz Behn’s violin provides a haunting accompaniment to Firewater Bones that makes it feel more like a Leonard Cohen or Waterboys song than standard folk-country. Chris Gestrin’s keyboards sound like Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited period. And then there is Gurf Morlix’s harmonies on Maiden Heart and Just Someone I Used to Know.

I’ve been wracking my brain to think who Beggs reminds me of. I’ve finally come up with it: Lucinda Williams.

Yes, Williams has a low, gravelly voice, while Beggs’ is high and airy; and Williams plays a loud, bluesy, electric guitar, while Beggs sticks to softer, acoustic roots music.

But they’re both genre-defying songwriters who sing songs that can make you see the world in a different way, changing you right down to your bones, and sing those songs with fantastic emotional vocals.

I’m hoping Beggs will soon follow Williams and record a duet with Elvis Costello. And I’m sure it will happen.

Outstanding Tracks: Maiden Heart and The Longest Dream.

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