Late Riser, 2013

Their new album, LATE RISER, is layered with rich vocal harmonies, indie pop and folk songwriting, and the kind of shimmery dissonance that bandleader Leah Abramson learned from years of singing Appalachian music. If this music sounds different, it’s because of Abramson’s eclectic taste in music and her deep ties to Vancouver’s indie roots scene. Like her friends in The Be Good Tanyas (Samantha Parton guests on Late Riser), Abramson knows the roots of American music inside and out, but brings a decidedly fresh approach. Inspired by Canadian history as equally as stories of heartbreak and longing, Abramson writes songs that subvert the folk or pop songwriting structure, blossoming beyond these boundaries into something entirely new. With a voice that is paradoxically rich and full, but also gossamer thin, Abramson taps into the eerie backbone of a song. It’s an ability she first honed with alt-old-time stringband The Crooked Jades, then as a touring harmony vocalist for well- known Canadian artists such as Dyad and Octoberman, and later developed on her own following a difficult wrist injury. Unable to play her instruments, Abramson sat down with an 8-track recorder and began layering her own voice and creating harmonic structures that echoed a full singing group.

Now with her new album, Abramson’s brought all her friends to bear on the music. Renowned old-time fiddler Rayna Gellert joins in, as do Canadian roots luminaries like Jesse Zubot and Josh Grange (of KD Lang’s band). Aside from the guests, The Abramson Singers are made up of Tyson Naylor– keyboards, Patrick Metzger – bass/guitar, Lucien Durey – harmony vocals, and Dan Gaucher – drums/ percussion.

It’s the songs that stand out as the key to Abramson’s music. Here, the longing and heartbreak of today rub against the tragedies of Canada’s historic past (songs “Red River Valley” and “Marguerite” speak of the Métis people’s tragic leader Louis Riel). Abramson’s soothing voice is as sharp as frozen ice, but just as fragile. This fragility makes for one of the most endearing and intimate indie roots recordings of the year.