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Tragedy Ann’s Heirlooms

Tragedy Ann’s Heirlooms

Guelph, Ontario’s forward-looking folk duo, Tragedy Ann, ask us to pause and look back through our inheritance with their second album, Heirlooms. While heirlooms are passed down by family members through generations, their songs expand this concept to include ‘social heirlooms’ that are passed from one generation to another. For vocalist and guitarist, Braden Phelan, part of growing older is “recognizing the heritage and inheritance that we are bequeathed,” and then beginning to “make conscious choices about what we want to take on, and take pride in, and what we want to unpack and really try to reckon with.”

For me, an heirloom is always tied to death, because that is the method of inheritance. There is loss, but there is some piece left over, something valued. Death is also the beginning of a new cycle, of new life, and a time of treflection. All these themes are interwoven throughout the expansive garden of the twelve track album, which ranges from sparse acoustic guitar and vocals to lush multi-layered soundscapes that ebb and flow, die and grow, pulsing and fading behind beautifully harmonized vocals. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Liv Cazzola, adds a dazzling array of sounds, including piano, mission organ, ukulele, accordion, glockenspiel, autoharp, omnichord, organelle, saw, and electric guitar.

The opening track, Australia, feels light as a feather, but the lyrics paint a darker picture on the horizon “Snowflakes should fall/All of January tucked in asleep/But it’s not/No it’s not cold enough”. According to Cazzola, “climate change has been top of my mind for a number of years now, so it feels really important to be able to put that front and center in our music.”

Diving into the deep issues can get pretty bleak, but both songwriters keep looking for the way to move forward, “Obstacles are where/This beauty lives”. For Phelan “there is so much reason to despair and feel dread, there is a lot to be concerned about, but there is also so much to celebrate, so much joy.” Cazzola has another take: “when you allow yourself to think about all of these issues really deeply, it can be really hard not to sit with it so long that it consumes you. It’s taking a step back and connecting with gratitude and love, that is my way of staying okay.”

While many of the songs center on loss and mourning, the second half of the album starts with Every Morning, which is a tender reprieve. “It is equally a love song in a romantic sense and in a platonic and environmental sense,” says Cazzola, “every day I’m inspired by something that’s growing in the garden, someone that I see on the street, the person that I see first thing in the morning, there’s so much to fall in love with in this world and we have to hold on to that if we’re going to do anything meaningful to care for it.”

To go along with the listening experience, Tragedy Ann collaborated with local herbalist, Naomi Woodward of Moonstar Herbalism, to develop the Every Morning Herbal Tea Blend. According to Phelan, “the collaborative nature is the nature of this album project.” According to Cazzola, “I like people, people are nice!”

Tragedy Ann will perform live with Basset on Thursday, May 12 at The Green at Oddfellows Hall. 36 James Street, 3rd Floor. Doors 7:00pm, Show 7:30pm. Pay what you can (suggested $20). Presented by Suitcase in Point and In the Soil Arts Festival. Link here.

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