Somebody's Darling, Charlotte Cornfield, Bonnie Whitmore

Somebody's Darling

Hailing from Dallas, TX, the roots-rock outfit Somebody's Darling came up in a part of the nation where southern meets western and urban meets rural, so it's no surprise how effortlessly this group of twenty-somethings blends rock 'n roll with old school R&B and country-funk. Their tunes sound just as good alongside The Stones and The Faces as they do Ryan Adams and The Drive-By Truckers.

Charlotte Cornfield

“Unpretentious, clever and direct folk rock that’s so big-hearted it hurts, every time Cornfield straps on a six-string, you just know that Joni Mitchell is smiling somewhere.”
- CBC Music

"A force to be reckoned with."
- Exclaim!

"As soon as you see Charlotte Cornfield play, you know it: she’s the real thing," says Maisonneuve Magazine. At nearly 6 feet tall, with tousled blond hair and a comic demeanor, Cornfield "has something luminous about her." Whether standing at the microphone, playing a savage guitar line or holding it down on the drums, the 23-year-old soulful folk rocker brings a rare intensity to every performance.

The daughter of a cellist/radio-producer father and writer mother, the Toronto native spent her childhood in a tangle of words and music. She burned holes in the discographies of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young in between lessons, rehearsals, and a gamut of other extracurricular activities. When she wasn't on the move, the budding rock poet hung out in the basement with paper and pen, filling notebook after notebook with lyric ideas.

At 17, Cornfield moved to Montreal to study jazz drumming. She was quickly immersed in the city's bursting music community and in no time had put together a band and cut an EP, It's Like That Here (2008), which received critical acclaim. Her first few local gigs led to appearances at the Mariposa, Montreal and Ottawa Folk Festivals and before long she found herself juggling full-time university with a growing touring schedule. By the time her second EP "Collage Light" came out in 2009 she was also moonlighting on the drums for several Montreal bands.

After graduating in 2010, Cornfield returned to Toronto to work on her first full-length effort Two Horses. Released in late 2011, the album reflects the duality of Cornfield’s musical influences: the deep lyricism and raw emotion of Mitchell, Dylan, and Young, mixed with the intense energy and hookiness of late-70’s New York rock and roll. Two Horses has received praise from such industry luminaries as Seymour Stein, Alan Cross and Martin Atkins and has vaulted Cornfield to mainstay status on the Canadian music scene.

Cornfield has appeared at Hillside, The Montreal Jazz Festival, South by Southwest, Canada Music Week, In the Dead of Winter, and Pop Montreal, and has shared the stage with Anais Mitchell, The Sadies, Ron Sexsmith, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Rose Cousins, and many more. She's also scooped an armful of awards along the way, including the Concordia Montreal Jazz Festival Award, the St. Ambroise Music Bursary and the Montreal Awesome Foundation Bursary.

Bonnie Whitmore

Bonnie Whitmore may have a heart of gold, an outsize personality and a roof-raising laugh, but don't be fooled: her debut album has a body count. No fewer than two men die by Bonnie's own hand over the course of the record: one of them is burned alive, one the victim of a knife that, in Whitmore's own words, "just slipped." Take a look at that album cover and consider what secrets she's trying to get you to keep quiet. And then think twice before you spill 'em.

It's all part of a grand plan – one methodically designed by Whitmore – from album cover, to album content. The songs concern themselves with the slow disintegration of a relationship, and the album's title – Embers to Ashes – is meant to represent that story's painful arc – from the first fires of young passion to the scorched ruin of heartbreak. As a killer, Whitmore's the last you'd suspect: Embers to Ashes is full of sly, spry country music, whiskey-soaked songs that recall prime Loretta Lynn and early Neko Case and, in their more uptempo moments, Miranda Lambert at her rowdiest. But be warned: those revelers carry daggers, and there's a bit of arsenic in that glass of cherry wine. As Whitmore herself puts it, "Nothing says 'go to hell' better than an uptempo, catchy song!"

Whitmore learned her way around country music early, touring at the ripe old age of 8 with her parents and her sister in a traveling roadshow cheekily titled "Daddy & the Divas." "Basically, my dad had children so he could have a band," she jokes. "He really wanted a bass player, so I learned how to play bass. My sister played the violin."

Whitmore's father has a pilot's license – an accomplishment Whitmore herself would later achieve – so he'd fly the family to their gigs at remote Texas bars and overcrowded fall festivals. And though they were a family act, Bonnie often stole the show: "As a little girl with a big voice singing 'Gold Dust Woman,' a lot of times I'd get the biggest applause."

As much as she loved playing with her family, the older she got, the more she wanted to strike out on her own. "I started to realize that I loved playing music," she says. "So when I was 16 I started writing my own songs." As her teen years progressed, Whitmore began working as a session player with other local musicians, while still continuing to perform with her family from time to time. For her first proper statement as a solo artist, she wanted to do something conceptual – something that told a story from beginning to end.

"I wanted to set up the album so it's: 'Boy meets girl, they breakup, but then there's the kind of postscript. At the end of the album, you have to deal with the lingering memory of that lost love."

Whitmore realized that vision to a striking degree. The title track is the kind of rough-and-tumble country song that would do Kathleen Edwards proud, but its rollicking rhythms conceal a sinister message: "Well, the preacher said until death do us part/ so you're gonna have to pay for this broken heart." "Tin Man" barrels forward like vintage Liz Phair, Whitmore using the classic Wizard of Oz character to pillory a heartless ex. Its lyric is built on a sly double-entendre: "Replaced by a girl named Mary who shares my middle name" (Whitmore's middle name is "Jane"). "She Walks" is a sparkling, mid-tempo number with all the ache of Lucinda Williams or Gillian Welch, while "Cotton Sheets" plays out like a bright update of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Passionate Kisses," Whitmore cannily using its central metaphor to stand in for the tension between upper and lower class.

She's just as adept on the record's softer numbers. "You Gonna Miss Me" is a slow ramble Whitmore wrote around the time she was moving from Texas for a brief stay in Tennessee. "I was really concerned about how leaving was going to be, and I think I was hopeful that I was going to be missed," she explains. "Sometimes, if I'm really emotionally involved when I'm playing a show, this song can get me to the point where I'm almost in tears."

The album was cut in a marathon two-day session in the studio, guided by the sure hand of producer Chris Masterson. "Chris produced my sister's record, Airplanes" Whitmore explains, "and it's unbelievable the things that he pulled together when we worked together. He had such great vision -– he could hear sounds that weren't there yet. I went into the studio with the intention of doing an EP, and he pushed me to do a full album."

The gambit paid off – Embers to Ashes is full of ragged, rugged, instantly memorable country songs, a document of a relationship where passion burns hot, bright and quickly, and danger looms like a thunderstorm in the distance.

"I'm so grateful I have songwriting as an outlet, because it lets me relieve some of my darker emotions," Whitmore explains. "Instead of going and maybe being a bit destructive, I just write songs instead. I know sometimes I write angsty songs, but that's how I get the angst out." Then she pauses and adds, with a wry smile, "Kinda makes you wonder about the people who write all those happy songs!"

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Somebody's Darling, Charlotte Cornfield, Bonnie Whitmore

Thursday, August 22 · Doors 7:30 PM at The Rock Shop