Laura Merrimen
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Laura Merrimen

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF
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For those relatively unfamiliar with the South Shore of Nova Scotia, spending a few hours driving through the region probably tells you more than a history book or wiki entry ever could. The stretch of coastal land was one of the earliest European settlements, but in the last few years has become one of NS biggest tourist retreats, full of beautiful cottages nestled up to jagged coastlines and tiny inlets filled with gently bobbing fishing boats and buoys.

On even the most casual glance, you'd fall in love with the region, and to be honest, many out-of-towners already have. Every free plot has been snatched up by Ontario and American visitors looking for "cheap" summer homes, and mom and pop diners were forced to step aside to make way for trendy cafes, restaurants and shops. The quaint cottages and small town store fronts dominate your view, but the history of the region and its foundations are still there. All you have to do is listen.

The same can be said about the current obsession with neo-country and roots music. It seems everyone wants to take a kick at the can and revisit the past with their new work. It may all sound authentic, but when you really listen, very few get it right. Young Laura Merrimen is one of those precious few. There are obvious jump off points – her voice and delivery on the opening track (Go On Now), should hit home with any Kathleen Edwards fan and Merrimen has obviously listened to Gillian Welch’s catalog – but for an artist that refuses to use cheap hooks as an easy way out, trying to find an easy comparison seems like a slap.

From her smoky voice to her vintage arrangements, it’s obvious Merrimen appreciates the history of the music she plays and probably grew up listening to classic records instead of simply mining influences from a thrift store find she stumbled upon last year. The South Shore born singer doesn’t speed along the road looking for the pretty picture, no, she prefers to head off the road most traveled. Instead of clever narratives and foot stomping country pop melodies served with side orders of slide and harmonica, Merrimen offers up heavy subject matter and heart felt emotions, refusing to soften the blow for the listener.

The slow moving Stand Alone barely gets passed a crawl, and Merrimen’s husky voice floats out as if propelled by her last breath. When she asks, “Can you hear what your heart’s saying now? Is it only beating for ow…own blood now?” you fixate on the pain and empathize feeling your own heart start to tear at the seams. It's only when you keep listening that you hear the subtleties of the tear jerker, like the gentle, barely audible organ that dances in the distance. Merrimen has the charisma to carry the simplest of arrangements and handle the tenderest of emotions. Laura's voice dominates the touching Keepin' it Low, a song that shouldn't be as interesting as she makes it and when she sings about a low income family barely getting by (Too Many Nights) or a broken heart, you believe her.

What I really love about this record though, are the chances she takes. Closer to the Door could have been found on a slab of acetate from the 50’s, but again she freshens out the melancholy with the aid of an organ and a big electric solo - to keep the 11 songs from blending. With some help from her Guthrie heavy backing band (and Dan Hache's aggressive guitar work) she handles more muscular sounds effortlessly, but never lets go of the reins tight and makes you stick with her, listening to her words instead of stomping along to familiar riffs. Keep an ear out for this up & comer from NS. - Herohill Review


Laura Merrimen: Love Letters for Lonely Hunters

Reviewed By: Lisa Torem
Label: Laura Merrimen
Format: CD

Nova Scotian Laura Merrimen wears her Americana heart on her tear-drenched sleeve in her enigmatic album, ‘Love Letters for Lonely Hunters.’

"Just go on now/Don’t apologize/I got nothing to give you now" sets the album’s tone. The embracing screech of a lonely guitar leads to Merrimen snarling in her weathered voice.

‘Another Line’ begins with a sparse tinsel-stringed intro. Multi-instrumentalist/producer Brad Conrad’s bountifully plush pedal-steel precedes this pay-off.. “I told you I’d be there,” she cries. Her tear-struck heart lodges mid-throat.

‘Too Many Nights’ stomps and kicks. Merrimen teases each syllable like a Spanish matador yielding a flaming red cape in a bull pen. ‘We’re just barely getting by,” she sings, almost gritting her teeth, to her penniless lover.

‘Don’t Worry Baby’ is a slo-mo thriller. “I don’t want to talk about it now….” she sings in hushed tones. Shimmering guitar and earthy chugs that shadow the great Johnny Cash generate amazing energy; Merrimen captures the charm of early Dylan with a washed-out drawl.

‘Keepin It Low’ heralds the most engaging candour:”the choices you made take their toll.” It chugs along like a vintage freight train.

On ‘From The Ground’ she sighs, “I’ll make things right by doing things the wrong way.” And even when it kicks into double-time and back, Merrimen breaths vitality into the pulse.

‘Time’ is heavenly. Erin Costello’s broad-shouldered reams of accordion add a superb touch and establishes a dreamy segue between the first two verses. Then, Merrimen’s voice sails into a beautific mournfulness.

But, just when you think you’ve got her pegged, ‘Mama’ throws you to the lions. After the emblazoned classic-rock intro, this singer-songwriter pleads: “Momma, come quick, can’t you see/This whole town’s deaf to me.”

‘Closer To The Door’ shadows the 50s with delicate arpeggios. Farfisa, Hammond, Pump organ, xylophone and tambourine add velvet shades of intensity, but the ultimate shocker is that this is Merrimen’s debut album.

The mature rustic-edge to her voice and the uber-southern comfort she imbues with her phrasing are generally hallmarks of a veteran recording artist like Rosanne Cash. Besides writing all of the songs, the talented Merrimen also added her artistic talent.

But, most importantly, the words “love” and “lonely” in the title stand out for a reason. Merrimen’s debut really casts a spotlight on the emptiness of unfulfilled romance; but, thankfully, she’s willing to be that trusted friend that never leaves. ‘Love Letters for Lonely Hunters’ is an unforgettable collection. - pennyblackmusic


"She's really tapped into the well of the modern Americana (or in this case, Canadiana) sound and sings with an unforced flow of bittersweet emotion." - the Chronicle Herald


Laura Merrimen “Love Letters For Lonely Hunters” (Independent, 2009)

From Nova Scotia I give you…...

Neo-country is a new term to me. It means “pop with a twang” apparently and that sums up the debut album from Laura Merrimen.

Inevitably the press release mentions Lucinda Williams. Well it would wouldn’t it? That’s the benchmark against which all female singer songwriters seem to want to be measured against. And in this case they’re spot on. Merrimen has a lot of Williams’ approach about her, and that isn’t meant as a slight. This isn’t a 'Car Wheels On A Gravel Road' impression – that would just be silly. But this is a mighty fine album on its own merits.

‘Ontario’ is the Willy Clay Band with a female songstress at the helm. Opener ‘Go On Now’ sets the pace with some great aggressive guitar from Dan Hache. The following track ‘Another Line’ slows things down with some sublime pedal steel.

‘Stand Alone’ is another laid back approach with painful lyrics, whilst ‘Mama’ pumps out some acrid electric guitar over Merrimen’s urgent voice. ‘Closer To The Door’ is a vintage sound that brings in some swirling Hammond organ . It could have been a pump organ; they both make an appearance on this album along with a Farfisa, and an accordion. That’s a lot of keyboards; bit like Jon Lord.

‘Don’t Worry Baby’ provides a great electric guitar riff that pushes the song along in a poppy chuggy way, whereas ‘Too Many Nights’ keeps up the foot tapping tempo.

One of the stand out tracks, and there are many, is ‘From The Ground’ where Merrimen keeps it simple but effective. Always the best way. Closer ‘Keepin It Low’ revisits some of the earlier themes, but that’s no bad thing, as Merrimen’s husky voice keeps you wanting more.

An excellent debut so expect Merrimen to be making waves near you soon. - Americana UK


Discography

Debut album Love Letters for Lonely Hunters available through CDBaby and ITunes

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Bio

With her smoky voice and heartworn songs, Laura Merrimen delivers Americana-infused country music that combines vintage arrangements with undertones of folky roots-rock.

Merrimen's debut album, Love Letters for Lonely Hunters, highlights the singer's old soul. With influences that range from Townes Van Zandt to Lucinda Williams, the album is steeped with a lingering darkness. Whether on the pulse-driven "Ontario", or the tremolo soaked waltz "Stand Alone", Merrimen demonstrates her ability to craft engaging songs focused around honest lyrics and innovative compositions. Her approach to infusing classic country archetypes into her writing has been acclaimed by outlets such as Herohill, who wrote, "It seems everyone wants to take a kick at the [neo-country and roots] can and revisit the past with their new work. It may all sound authentic, but where you really listen, very few get it right. Young Laura Merrimen is one of those precious few."

Either taking to the stage solo or teaming up with her Lonesome Travellers, Merrimen continues to spread her brand of soulful country throughout Eastern Canada. In the past year she has shared the stage with the Divorcees, Cuff the Duke, Elliot Brood, and The Deep Dark Woods.

www.lauramerrimen.com