Sarah Jane Scouten is on the road this November and December with intent and purpose.
The singer, raised on Bowen Island, B.C., is crafting curated folk music shows for the Canadian provinces she is visiting, and, for some months, has been consulting ethnomusicologists about the traditional songs of the region, which are not always locally known. For British Columbia, she’s unearthed mining songs, telling tales of Britannia Beach and the lives of hard rock miners from the turn of the century. For Alberta, it’s a view of the ranch, built on the oral tradition of cowboy songs.
“It is a common belief that traditional Canadian music west of the Prairies does not exist, or has been irrevocably lost,” said Scouten. “I’m excited to say isn’t the case.”
Touring with a full band, which includes Sly Juhas on drums, James McEleney on bass and Nichol Robertson on guitar, the songs chosen are about the work of settlers, miners and homesteaders, arranged with modern sensibilities. They’re made to fit alongside the original material in order to illustrate that folk song is an unbroken line in all parts of Canada, alive and well in contemporary folk artists, with original songs like “Black Strap Sadie” and “The Cape” being as rooted in a place as their predecessors.
Ever concerned with the preservation of folk history in this new digital age, she shared a simple iPhone field recording of cowboy tune “Where The Ghost River Flows”, which will be performed on the tour.
In 2014, Scouten released her second full-length album, The Cape, named after her childhood playground Cape Roger Curtis and a stormy 7.5-minute-long ballad by the same name. The record throws a wake for all the things we won’t have back again, found in the shameless nostalgia for place, time, lost loved ones, frayed family ties and bonds too strong to break.
A traditionalist at heart, Scouten shows her signature flair for the roots of roots music, ranging from western swing, honky tonk, Cajun and Appalachian string band music and a hint of the Maritimes. With respect for these roots, she writes from her own perspective, rather than taking on a persona or copying a style, and only writes about what she knows profoundly.
Sarah Jane Scouten performs Dec. 2 at A Break in Time Caffé.