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ART & SOUL: Staying the course

Fortunate Ones.
Fortunate Ones. - Contributed

The golden days of autumn are tapering off. The trees are blown bare revealing the silver of their bark. The wind is sharper, the evenings are creeping closer, and heavy coats and boats are being moved to a prominent place in the doorway closet. I do not like the outside parts of winter but I enjoy the hibernating by the woodstove, reading books, listening to good music and avoiding the news.

This week my Spotify was completely taken over by the perfect harmonies of Catherine Allan and Andrew O’Brien, better known as Fortunate Ones.

O’Brien says their new album, “Hold Fast”, is about taking stock. It’s a culmination of the last three years and about, “refining what we’re trying to achieve.”

The song “Northern Star”, for example, was inspired by stories of Syrian immigrants moving to Canada and Allan’s considering what it would be like to just leave everything behind.

“Imagine leaving your home, leaving a traumatic and violent scenario,” she says.

There is no denying that in this era of information overload, it is a struggle to find a balance between standing up and fighting for right, and not falling into despair and giving up on a battle that seems futile at times.

Allan wanted to convey how that must feel, but also, the hopefulness of arriving in this country, starting over.

The song, “Steady as She Goes” is a commentary on the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta. They were in the studio with Tim Baker and Alan Doyle as the events unfolded and were watching with concern as the evacuation occurred. They were particularly inspired by the stories of first responders.

“It was such a profound juxtaposition to see this dark uncertain event unfolding and then seeing this great force of good combating and fighting back against it,” O’Brien says.

When the time came to record the song, they reached out to Doyle and Baker, and decided to get as many of their friends involved in the project as possible.

The duo says support from their arts community was crucial to their success so far, and Allan calls Alan Doyle particularly a mentor who helped them navigate their way forward. Now, five years after the band formed, she says any advice or help they can give to up-and-coming musicians, they’re happy to provide. 

I was struck by the tone of this album and that while it addressed tragic events, the overall themes were community, hopefulness, collaboration and resilience.

She adds that artists need not be afraid to ask for help. They asked everybody for assistance in the release of their first album, propelling two singles to the CBC Radio 2 top 20 list and a Juno nomination in 2016.

I was struck by the tone of this album and that while it addressed tragic events, the overall themes were community, hopefulness, collaboration and resilience.

There is no denying that in this era of information overload, it is a struggle to find a balance between standing up and fighting for right, and not falling into despair and giving up on a battle that seems futile at times.

But we cannot fix problems unless we’re aware of them, and this heightened awareness of all that is going wrong, while stressful, is important to repairing things going forward. While we struggle to find equilibrium, reaching for community, staying hopeful, finding good people to work with and staying the course, even when we have doubts, are encouragements we can use to help us remain steadfast as we navigate life during these unsettling times.

Also, listen to the radio show, Bridges, here.

Carolyn R. Parsons is an author who lives in central Newfoundland and Labrador. She can be reached at carolynrparsons@gmail.com

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