Folk is a big deal at the moment, with bands such as Mumford and Sons bringing English traditional music to the stadium stage, while American artists such as Alison Krauss enjoy a resurgence in popularity. However, even with such an influx of similar musical styles, Oh My Darling’s Canadian-Francophone-influenced folk is a very intriguing and rewarding experience.
Oh My Darling is the quartet of Vanessa Kuzina (lead guitar and vocals), Marie-Josee Dandeneau (upright bass, vocals), Alison De Groot (claw-hammer banjo, vocals) and Rachel Baiman (fiddle, vocals), a band with a wide range of influences whose sound manages to incorporate all of them into a new and stimulating whole.
Kuzina is a cheerful and engaging front-woman, whose story-telling style detailing the band’s origins and influences provides a lovely context for all the music we hear. And, while making some of the lyrics difficult to decipher, the sweeping melodies provided by her singing voice bring another beautiful tone to the intermingling instrumentals.
Of the rest of the band, bass-player Dandeneau is easily the most captivating onstage presence, quiver of horse-hair bows strapped to her thigh, dancing and swaying alongside her instrument. Lending her soaring vocals to the French-language content of the band’s repertoire and her off-beat humour to the links in between, she provides a delicious counterpoint to Kuzina’s more sentimental standpoint.
That’s not to say Baiman and De Groot don’t also play their part, both musically and personality-wise. Baiman’s rousing rendition of ‘Greasy Coat’ is a wonderful point in the show and when the enigmatically-reserved De Groot finally has her spotlight moment on the final track of the evening, she shows off a sweet clear voice which could certainly be made more of.
Oh My Darling feel like a band built on close relationships. The overwhelming impression given by their on-stage banter is one of closeness and pride - four supremely talented women, glorying in each other’s talent. The grins they shoot each other during the performance seem a genuine expression of their pleasure at being able to play together and even temporary newcomer Baiman has such fluid back-and-forth banter with the other members that she could have been playing with them since day one.
Musical tracks such as ‘Won’t Need My Shoes On Heaven’s Floor’, an ode to Kuzina’s grandmother, and ‘Venez Danser’, co-written with her father by bassist Dandeneau, further support this feeling. What’s more, seeing Kuzina and Baiman showcase the Acadien art of fiddlesticks, (two artists playing one instrument) only goes to show, on a physical level, how closely in-sync the band are as performers.
Oh My Darling are a bright vibrant band who make for a fantastically uplifting evening. Their verve and energy create a show that proves one thing beyond any doubt - if a shoe has heels, it just makes it better for stomping.