Sunday Wilde – He Gave Me a Blue Nightgown
This release, the fourth by Canadian singer/songwriter Sunday Wilde, literally takes you out to the country. Recorded at a remote hunting lodge in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, Wilde combines the qualities of several styles of roots music in a stripped-down presentation that is centered on her unique vocal style. She handles all of the vocals and plays piano.
Her support comes from David West on guitar and Rory Slater on upright bass plus Virgil Denmark on violin and Janice Matichuk on accordion. Wilde’s son, Dawson Paulson, joins in using brushes on a metal mailbox. Reno Jack – Rennie Frattura – plays acoustic guitar and helped with the production. The spare arrangements hark back to the early days of recorded music when the focus was on the song and the singer. There are few instrumental solos and when they occur, they are brief statements that quickly shift your attention back Wilde’s delivery of her original material.
She lays down a solid rhythm on the piano for “He Thrills Me Up”, her tribute to a good loving man. The mood is a bit more somber when West adds some eerie guitar fills on “Down the Road Alone”. On the contemplative ballad “No Matter How Far”, Wilde expresses the depth of her feelings and yearnings for her man when he is not around. The sassy side of Wilde’s nature comes through loud and clear on “Sunday’s Loverman” as she makes it clear that she tired of doing all of the giving and getting nothing in return. “There was a Time” finds the singer reminiscing on an old love affair. The backwoods sound is sparked by Denmark’s old-timey violin.
Wilde shares her wrenching heartbreak on “I Guess I Didn’t Hear You Right” as the realization hits that a relationship is over. Her transformation of “Amazing Grace” is so complete that you may not recognize the gospel classic. “Shaken Down” has a driving tempo, bringing out Wilde’s rowdier side on track that would sound right at home in a hill country juke joint.
The disc may have benefited from a greater variety of tempo as the songs never exceed a mid-tempo pace. With the instrumental accompaniment staying in the background, it falls to Wilde as the singer to make every track work.
While blessed with a strong voice, Wilde’s style might be an acquired taste for some listeners. She loves to add little embellishments to almost every lyrical line, using a unique tone full of nasal resonance. Wilde’s vocal style might conjure up an image of Rickie Lee Jones with a deeper voice. And her version of the “blues” offers variations that venture away from the traditional twelve-bar format.
Still, there are enough strong performances to make this one worth checking out.