Jenny Ritter is a new name to us at Blabber’n’Smoke although she appears to be a mainstay of Canada’s west coast folk scene having been a member of the all female band The Gruff before they split in 2010. Bright Mainland is her first solo release and reflects a period of soul searching and a relocation from Vancouver Island to big city life on the mainland. While The Gruff were primarily an acoustic band Ritter here surrounds herself with a fine bunch of musicians to achieve a warm country tinged sound that is replete with some excellent pedal steel guitar. the eleven songs featured (all penned by Ritter) are bursting with a vitality that is refreshing and to top it all she delivers them with a voice that is almost immaculate.
Ritter’s acoustic guitar and voice supported by a lonesome pedal steel introduce the first song They Can’t Tell where a separation crisis highlights the gulf between her island and the mainland. Pretty soon the band stomp in with a driving percussive beat and the songs builds a momentum that is pretty thrilling. Not for the last time the listener is reminded of fellow Canadian Kathleen Edwards as Ritter swoops and soars throughout. Five Nights captures some of her early experiences of life in the city with the band capturing a late night feel while Ritter has a sense of wonder and yearning in her voice. There’s an uplifting sense of joy and happiness in the following We Must Sing as banjos flutter, guitars soar and the lyrics celebrate the power of song. Resolute is another opportunity for the band to cut loose with a fiddle to the fore and while Ritter is singing of a lost love again the overall feel is optimistic. You Missed The Boat has an almost doo woppish 50’s rock’n’roll swing and according to Ritter is another “breakup” song written during that time when one is getting over the emotional upheaval of a failed romance. again Ritter transforms what could have been a lament into a redemptive song casting aside the ex lover and again celebrating the power of song, literally so in this case as a massed chorus swells up at the end. Throughout the album the playing is exemplary with producer Adrian Dolan playing several instruments while Lucas Goetz of The Deep Dark Woods delivers incendiary pedal steel and also drums. Ryan Boeur and Bear Erickson add electric guitar on some songs and Elise Boeur plays viola. In addition there is a host of backing singers most of whom are members of the Kingsgate Chorus, a “rock’n’roll” vocal collection of local Vancouver musical luminaries. The band shine brilliantly on the enigmatic Ghost, a song that is central to the album as it ponders the duality of the duplicitous male and realises that a girl’s best friend is ultimately her mum. The music churns and boils along with some fine guitar effects to create a fine musical conundrum. Scattered through the album are a few songs that reflect Ritter’s folkier roots as accompanied by guitar she delivers a childlike set of beliefs in It Is What It Is while Weathervane shows that even without her musicians she can deliver a rousing message.