For the love of Jenn Grant

A review of one of her three sold-out shows this week

Grant, casting a spell - SHANNON WEBB-CAMPBELL
Shannon Webb-Campbell
Grant, casting a spell

Last night Jenn Grant outshone the moon with her constellation of songs. After a long cross-country album release tour, and her third sold-out show in a row at The Carleton, her latest, Compostela, positions Grant amongst the brightest map of stars in the night sky.

Warming the hour with their sturdy Cape Breton hearts, Villages—a pioneer project from musicians Mardeen—added east coast flair with earthy undertones. Villages performed their first show with a graceful ruggedness akin to the rocky edge of the earth they come from.

As a fan of Grant’s work for nearly a decade, it’s been quite a journey. From her early days nervously singing solo at The Khyber Club, to having her songs lifted on the wings of Symphony Nova Scotia, making pit stops in legendary Toronto bars and rock houses in St. John’s along the way, she has a voice I’ll follow all my life.

Grant’s vocals are almost acrobatic. She moves from scoring the underbelly of the ocean, to taking listeners atop crystalized mountaintop peaks. Compostela, made with her producer/husband Daniel Ledwell, illustrates their musical matrimony. Together, they build sonic landscapes. Each record is a new vantage point.

With a Spanish flair, Compostela marks an internal journey. Inspired by the legend of the El Camino, the dust of the stars that make up the Milky Way are traces of pilgrim’s walks, Grant creates her own fate. “Wild Animal,” “American Man” and “Spades,” are rich in narrative and atmosphere. Returning to older material—“Heartbreaker,” from 2009’s Echoes and 2007’s Orchestra For the Moon’s hit “Dreamer,” joined by Stewart Legere, Grant’s evolution has been gradual, yet distinct.

Performing several songs off Compostela, Grant’s found subtle sophistication in her songwriting. The roadmap still reaches out, yet looks inward, she roots listeners in a sense of wild possibility, songs like “Bring Me A Rose,” “Barcelona” and “Stranger in the Night,” showcase her ability to dazzle and design.

There’s an inherent alchemy to a Jenn Grant show. Partially, it’s her sparkly personality and funny stage banter, but it goes deeper. There’s an authenticity, the room becomes an installation as the band builds upon the layers of her textured voice. One moment it’s billowy and beautiful, the next it’s sharp angles, and unrefined. What’s for certain, when Grant promises, “No One’s Gonna Love You (Quite Like I Do),” we can’t help but believe her.