I got called in last minute to teach another spin class (seriously, I probably cover more spin classes than lead my own) so I figured I’d arrive a littler early, drop HRH off in the pool and slip in a quick functional strength and core routine in the gym. I confess, I had originally planned on doing this workout early this morning but I opted to roll over and go back to sleep instead so, hey, this way I get to right that wrong. Booyah! Plus, I get to check off another album I’ve been meaning to get to, the 2010 debut album from The Wilderness of Manitoba, ‘Hymns of Love & Spirits‘.
Originally released as an EP and later reissued as a full album, ‘Hymns of Love and Spirits’ is self-categorized as a chamber-folk record that is as haunting as it is comforting; based around the the talents of Stefan Banjevic, Will Whitwham, Melissa Dalton, Scott Bouwmeester, and Sean Lancaric. The group formed organically out of late-night sessions at Toronto’s Delaware House, a combination basement studio/rehearsal space/living quarters for local indie rockers Howl, who host acoustic shows in their garage. Employing an arsenal that includes banjo, cello, mandolin, and guitar, it’s the Wilderness of Manitoba’s rich, complex harmonies that serve as the anchor for their wickedly pretty northern folk songs.
Most of the tunes don’t move faster than a snail’s pace, allowing a slightly plucked banjo to lead the way. What it lacks in speed, it definitely makes up for in substance. The opening track ‘Bluebirds‘ pretty much sets the tone of the album with a certain clarity of reason, amidst precious finger-picking and the cheerful sound of song birds. At the very most, it was certainly better than listening to the cacophony of snorts, growls and beastly groans currently being emitted by the meatheads throwing around the heavy iron on the other side of the gym; so that was nice. It doesn’t stop there either as each song continues to play on each other, gentle and cascading. The final track, ‘Evening‘ (actually written by Whitwham’s mother – an unofficial student of Joan Baez – in the 60’s) more leans on the band’s country roots; pale and desperate and fueled by gorgeous, effortless four-part harmonies and gently plucked banjo that evoke 60’s Peter, Paul and Mary.
After a stressful day at the home office where simply staving off ripping out my hair by the root each time HRH either slammed her bedroom door or stomped around the kitchen in search of snacks, it was the perfect thing to calm me down somewhat on the mat – *sigh* – total serenity now.