There’s not a straightforward narrative to Abigail Lapell’s new album Stolen Time. It courses a path that wanders a bit, not because straight lines don’t make sense, it’s just that quite often our paths seem to avoid the straight and narrow. Sometimes to tell a story you need to show a million little details before you get to the main point.
It’s a little bit like her band for this album, made up of musicians from both cities she’s called home the last few years, Montreal and Toronto. Bassist Dan Fortin, drummer Dani Nash and guitarist and lap steel player Christine Bougie all hail from Toronto, vocalist Katie Moore, while French horn player Pietro Amato and trumpet player Ellwood Epps are from Montreal.
The songs inhabit their own sense of time and place. ‘Land of Plenty’ tells two tales, the old-timey sound seems to locate the song as taking place during the days of the holocaust, with a sad sounding electric guitar and bass framing the proceedings. Yet the song was also inspired by Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. Somewhere between those two events lie truths that needed connection. her grandparents had a rough go of it, yet succeeding generations by being born in Canada felt, “… like you just basically won the lottery by being born here,” according to Lapell. Yet the connection with the intergenerational trauma that immigrants confront, can’t be ignored. Not everything resonates quite the same after that level is added to the song’s equation.
The full band arrangement of ‘Ships’ helps illustrate the opposing influences that push and pull against each other. The initially gentle tone of the guitar and bass become more assertive as the song explores contradictory paths, from love to addiction, leaving a relationship versus staying, opportunities to quit fight with opportunities to relapse. There’s much to negotiate while the music mirrors the lyrics from soft to surging. There’s even some wailing sax to add more colours to the mix.
There are also moments with a Joni Mitchell like quality to them. ‘Pines’ while ostensibly a simply piano and harmonica tune about a walk through the woods, offers glimpses of intimacy combined with being caught spellbound while appreciating vistas frozen in time. “Walk through the pines/ down the mountain, follow the signs/ Shadow birds circle slow/high above the power lines.” Yet what you see depends on where you look.
Part of what Lapell does is something she was born to do, “My family always told me I was constantly singing to myself ever since I was born, before I could talk.” Still, in sharing the things she does, some incredibly personal, she gives us the ability to see the world differently and think about life in ways we never realized before. Stolen Time reflects the “expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist.” Abigail Lapell’s Stolen Time reveals insights of a world we hardly know, yet know intimately.