On Thanksgiving Eve, several dozen people came to Saratoga Springs legendary Caffe Lena to see and hear Canadian singer-songwriter Ember Swift perform her multi-lingual show – some French, some Chinese, but mostly English – and it was a gust of fresh air blowing into the venerated folk coffeehouse.
Few in the audience were bi-lingual, let alone tri-lingual. But Swift had the foresight to explain some of the foreign language songs and engage the audience in helping with a chorus of word sounds, presumably Chinese, written during her part-time residency in Beijing. Hey, it sounded great.
First off, Ember Swift played an electric hollow-body guitar and knew how to coax string bites, chunky chords and melodic runs out of her axe. Secondly, she brought back-up vocalist-percussionist Cheryl Reid to accompany her during most of the concert. Thirdly, the music was a quirky mix of pop, contemporary-folk, blues and rock with a decidedly international flavor.
You’d be hard pressed to compare her to any of the folk icons on this side of the Atlantic, or for that matter, the Pacific, too.
Swift’s set encompassed original songs that were drawn from her eight former CD releases, as well as some from her new 2010 album, “The New Project.” Available in a lovely limited edition, book-type package (as well as a standard CD release, the album is a hybrid of about 25 percent of the songs sung in Chinese Mandarin and the rest in English.
Finishing her Caffe Lena gig with a song that she wrote only the previous week, Swift confided to the audience that the title was yet to be determined. Pausing to think for a moment, Swift explained, “It’s kind of like this. If a painting was made of this song, and it was hung in a gallery, it would have ‘Love as Tsunami’ titled underneath it.” Sounds like a good title, and it surely was an impassioned performance.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk